Steamboat Resort’s child care facility to open later this month


Construction on Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.’s new child care facility is nearing completion with plans to open in December, adding 30 more slots to the Yampa Valley’s child care offerings.

More than a year ago, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. announced its intention to open a new child care facility largely targeted at resort employees after several new mothers on staff highlighted the need for such an employee benefit.

One early concern with the new facility was that it would simply move the valley’s limited early childhood education staff to a different center, but almost all of the staff hired for the center are new to Steamboat.

“We set out with a goal to not recruit from other child care facilities because we knew that doesn’t necessarily help the need — it just shifts it,” said Loryn Duke, Steamboat Resort’s director of communications. “I think we have staff members joining from Alaska, Mississippi and Florida.”

In January, the resort hired Sarah Mikkelson, who was a preschool teacher at Grandkids Child Care Center at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center at the time, to serve as the new center’s executive director. Other than her, the rest of the staff have been hired from elsewhere, Duke said.

One advantage for the resort is that it could offer early staff for the childhood education center access to workforce housing, Duke said. She added that the resort was able to give some of the new hires accelerated training to ensure they have the required courses completed by the time the center opens.

“It usually takes multiple months for staff to get this training, and we were able to compact it into a two-week period,” Duke said.

When it opens, the center will accommodate 30 children, with a handful of spots for infant and toddler care, which is particularly scarce locally.

Duke said about 26 of the slots are currently planned for children of resort employees, but there will likely be a few spots available to the broader community sometime in January. A waitlist for those last few slots already has more than 40 families on it, Duke said.

“We’re hopeful that some of our staff members that are currently at other facilities like Young Tracks or Heritage Park (Preschool), that if they join our facility, that opens up space elsewhere for community members to find care,” Duke added. “It really does show that there’s so much need in our community, and hopefully we’re helping fill a bit of that need.”

Because the center isn’t open yet, discussions about any expansion are premature, Duke said. Still, Duke said increasing what the resort can offer is on the table for the future, especially as the needs of resort staff change.

For Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton, who has long advocated for increased child care options and said large employers offering child care is part of the solution to the area’s shortage, adding 30 slots is significant.

“If any of them are infant and toddler spots, which they are, then that’s huge,” Melton said.

Routt County and Steamboat Springs — two of the larger employers locally — are in early talks to partner with the Colorado Department of Transportation to build a child care facility. Based on early discussions, that building would also include housing units targeted at early childhood teachers, as well as snowplow drivers.

While adding more centers is important, part of the crisis for care locally is due to a lack of staffing at current centers. In addition to the CDOT partnership, Melton said there is a parallel effort underway to offer more opportunities locally for someone interested in a career in early childhood education.

This process actually started in 2019 but failed to earn necessary grant funding at the time, Melton said. Then the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the effort to the back burner. 

Now a group involving officials from the city, county, Colorado Mountain College and Steamboat Springs School District is working to reignite that effort. Melton said the idea involves a couple of different layers.

Ideas include offering high school students paid internship opportunities at local centers, the ability to take courses to get them some certifications and offer current teachers a stipend to mentor folks interested in the industry.

“I think it’s great,” Melton said of local efforts to boost the child care workforce. “It’s something we need.”

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