For parents questioning future of preschools in Eagle County, Avon land could offer answers
Discussion will continue in Avon regarding 2.3-acre site in town
Eagle County parents are raising some of the questions associated with the uncertain future of early childhood education in the region, and in Avon, the town council is looking for answers on a piece of land zoned for education.
A recent discussion in Avon was spurred by a proposal for an early childhood education center in town; the Oak Village Academy proposal could offer preschool to 186 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, according to an initial design suggested for a 2.3-acre developable area in Avon.
Avon Town Manager Eric Heil said a facility of that size would serve as a very strong regional early childhood education facility.
“The numbers that they’re talking about certainly would meet Avon’s needs and beyond,” Heil said.
But Avon councilmember Chico Thuon expressed hesitation in considering a proposal from a new preschool when there are existing preschools in Eagle County which soon might need the Avon land.
An early childhood education center at Prater Lane in Avon operates out of the Seasons building and primarily serves Vail Resorts employees, utilizing portions of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall, by license agreement, for outdoor play.
“When the Town pursues the extension of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall toward Harry A. Nottingham Park it is expected to result in the eliminate the feasibility of this outdoor play area in this location,” Town of Avon Planning Director Matt Pielsticker noted in a memo to councilmembers.
Thuon said he didn’t want to take the Avon land off the table for existing preschools, also referencing the Children’s Garden of Learning in Vail, which will move to a temporary new location in 2021 to accommodate a new housing development on North Frontage Road.
“I know there’s some concern about Praeter Lane and all the other little guys in town, I’m just concerned – are we going to box out the people that we already have relationships with here in our town?” Thuon asked.
Local parent Catherine Hayes echoed Thuon’s concerns.
Hayes urged the Avon council to look “locally first, for programs that are interested in expanding,” she said. “I know of at least one, that my youngest daughter attends, that would absolutely be interested in expanding.”
Steve Coyer, chairman of the education committee for the Vail Valley Foundation, said he believed the Oak Village Academy proposal could work in Eagle County.
Since 2017, Oak Village Academy has been operating a preschool in North Carolina which is similar to the one they have proposed for Avon. Adam Zablud with Oak Village Academy said the school worked with the natural learning institute at North Carolina University to design outdoor learning environments.
“Anything you can do inside, you can do outside,” Zablud said. “Our curriculum is based around being outside.”
Coyer said he likes the idea.
“I would like to encourage the council to keep this on the burner, I know there are other questions about competition in the valley and so on, but this is a glaring need in the valley.”
For the next council
Heil said when the newly elected Avon councilmembers are seated in December, the future of the parcel will likely be a topic of consideration for them.
The Avon council’s Nov. 10 meeting on the issue was to “introduce the idea and determine if council has interest,” Heil said. “I think we will also want to wait until the new council members get seated, and we’ll probably revisit if there’s interest in pursuing this potential use at this site further.”
The proposal also included employee housing and buildings higher than 35 feet, which would require an amendment to the parcel’s zoning.
The parcel, known as Planning Area E, is bordered by single-family homes and the Union Pacific Railroad to the south, a .51-acre undeveloped lot to the west, East Beaver Creek Boulevard and the new Piedmont Apartments to the north, and Post Boulevard to the east.
The property was deeded to the town in 2014 as part of a settlement with the Traer Creek Metropolitan District; rezoning would require approval from that district, along with the town of Avon.
“It’s not really possible to do this without some regional cooperation,” said Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes. “This is a great first step.”