Eagle County School District seeks grant for completion of Edwards Early Learning Center | VailDaily.com

Eagle County School District seeks grant for completion of Edwards Early Learning Center

Completion would add 10 preschool classrooms to the center

Eagle County School District is seeking funding to complete the renovation of the Edwards Early Learning Center.
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Eagle County School District is seeking grant funding to complete the renovation of the Edwards Learning Center. If completed, this would add 10 preschool classrooms and increase its capacity to serve an additional 129 students.  

The district Board of Education approved a grant application for a total of $3 million on its Wednesday, March 17 consent agenda. The application was for Rep. Joe Neguse’s 2024 Community Project Funding, which provides money to a variety of community projects in sectors from agriculture and education to energy and housing.

The Edwards Learning Center was opened in the Fall 2020 following the consolidation of three schools and the closure of June Creek Elementary in order to meet Edwards’ and Avon’s community needs around infant, toddler and preschool care.

At the time, due to “financial limitations,” the district was only able to renovate the bottom floor of the former June Creek to repurpose it for the Early Learning Center, according to the grant application.

“The need in the community continues to grow and ECSD has been approached by a currently licensed provider to absorb their program, which serves 69 students, as their lease expires as of 2025 and they do not have resources to find another location,” the application adds.

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This expansion is also needed as the state prepares to roll out Universal Preschool in the fall. The grant application adds that with this implementation, “the need for additional slots is expected to increase.”

The center currently has two infant, two toddler and 10 preschool classrooms, but a completed renovation would increase this to three infant, four toddler and 17 preschool classrooms. With this expansion, it could serve an additional 129 students.

The grant application adds that this project would be in partnership between the district and Eagle County government.

“As two of the largest employers in Eagle County, both are facing significant challenges in recruiting and retaining staff so that they can continue to provide high-quality services to the community. Access to Early Care and Education has been identified, by both organizations, as a key reason individuals leave or choose not to accept offers to work for their organizations,” it adds.

While the district is seeking $3 million from the federal grant program, the total project would be closer to $3,521,000, with the other $521,000 coming from the district’s capital reserve or other grants.

“Completing the renovation would leverage the $743,240 already invested by the school district,” the application states. “Due to the high cost of purchasing property or renting space in the Eagle River Valley, this is the most effective solution to increase capacity for Early Care and Learning which is a critical need for the community workforce.”

Should the funding be secured, the grant application estimates a February 2024 start date for construction, with completion targeted for October 2024, depending on “funding and allowable start dates.”

This project represents the latest move by the school district to increase the number of early childhood classrooms as the need continues to grow. According to the grant, it has expanded from 14 to 27 preschool classrooms over the last decade.

It is also currently working to build an early childhood center to meet down valley needs in Gypsum. It is currently in the planning and design phase for the center, which would not only provide 350 early childhood spots but also 50 units of workforce housing.

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