School board considers increases to early childhood fee schedule in Eagle County |

School board considers increases to early childhood fee schedule in Eagle County

Rates could increase by up to 25% as the district seeks to recapture funding lost as a result of stagnant fees

The Eagle County School District Board of Education will consider raising its early childhood education fees at its Wednesday, Dec. 14 meeting.
Eagle County School District/Courtesy Photo

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, the Eagle County School District Board of Education will consider raising the cost of its early childhood education programs for the first time in several years in order to receive more funding from the state.

“This is a significant change and I want to make sure we’re not taking it lightly,” said Shelley Smith, the director of the district’s early childhood education department, at the Wednesday, Oct. 19, meeting when the fee change was first discussed.

The proposal to increase fees comes as a response to statewide increases to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program rates, which were increased in October. This program, also known as CCAP, helps connect families that qualify based on income with low-income child care assistance.

The school district receives funding from the state based on the number of families enrolled with CCAP assistance as well as based on its fee schedule. According to Smith, the district is “only allowed to get from CCAP what our fee schedule says.”

“CCAP has significantly raised their rates over the last two or three years,” Smith said. “The last two times that they’ve done a CCAP increase, we have not increased our rates. We have, over time, kept our rates very stable wanting to support families and children.”

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However, at the same time, Smith said that the costs for the early childhood education department have “significantly increased,” citing salary increases, the increased costs associated with maintaining free-standing schools like the Edwards Early Learning Center, as well as the growth of its infant and toddler capacity.

“We really felt that we needed to strongly consider, due to the financial obligation that we have to the department and to the district, to make sure we’re capitalizing all the resources we can,” Smith said. 

According to Smith, the district currently has 30 families qualified and enrolled with CCAP in its early childhood education programs. Currently, she added, the district is receiving about $1,200 a day for those 30 families. However, if the district charged in accordance with the recently increased CCAP rates, it could capture $2,550 per day and $230,000 over the course of a year.

Sandy Farrell, the district’s chief operating officer, said that the “large chunk of money” being left on the table was “significant enough to consider” making changes to its current rates.  

With increased costs of operating in recent years, Farrell said that the district’s “gap between having a self-funded program is gone and it’s been unfunded completely for years.”

“The more that we delay in raising the rates, the bigger that gap is going to get and the more it takes out of programming K-12. So it’s just a priority of what we can do to take care of all of the students in the community,” she added.  

It is for these reasons that the school board is considering increasing its early childhood fees in the next year.

The district’s early childhood education rates change based on a number of factors including the age of a child, the length of care (half-day, full-day and extended day), the number of days a week (one to five days) and whether a student has an individual education plan. 

Currently, the district charges around $50 a day for preschool, $55 for an infant and $50 for a toddler for a single, “traditional day” of care (meaning they stay past 4:30 p.m.). Numbers which, according to Smith, are not only below the state and market CCAP rate but also “below the average of our community providers.”

Smith said on Oct. 19 that among local child care providers the average daily rate is $63 for infants, $59 for toddlers and $56 for preschool.

At its October meeting, the school board was presented with the maximized fee increase, which would nearly double its current rates. For a preschooler, this would increase the rate to $95 for a single, extended day of care.

However, the school board felt that a maximized increase was too much.

“We don’t want to leave money on the table, if we can get reimbursed at higher rates, that’s more money to help pay our teachers and help cover our expenses,” said Michelle Stecher, the school board president. “That said, it was a huge shocker for me to try and interpret this and see, in some of these categories, almost double the daily fee, for parents to be paying for their children to be in preschool when that’s already such a huge expense. Personally, I’d be in favor of looking for some middle ground: more than we’re paying now so it’s more comparable to other providers, but not jumping quite as high as that max.”

Stecher later added that this proposed maximum rate increase that CCAP would reimburse “brings me fear in us being able to still be a community that families can afford to live in.”

With the request of the school board to see a more “middle-ground” proposal, Smith will be presenting a proposed 25% increase on its current rates at the Wednesday, Dec. 14, meeting. It is proposed that these new fees will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, for new enrollments and in fall 2023 for currently enrolled families.

As proposed, this 25% increase would bring the rate from $55 to $69 for eight hours of infant care, from $50 to 63 for eight hours of toddler care, and from $50 to $63 for nine hours of preschool care.  

Also, in accordance with feedback from the board that the fees also remain reasonable and attractive for staff members, the proposal includes a discount on tuition for school district staff. It is also suggested that staff families that are currently enrolled will continue paying the current rates until they exit the program. 

These rate changes also come as the state prepares to roll out its universal preschool program, which could also result in additional subsidies for families with 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool. On Oct. 19, Smith said the anticipated subsidies would likely be for 10 hours of care or up to 20 hours if a family had a “qualifying factor,” such as being an English language learner, being at or below 270% of poverty, or if they’re on an individual education plan.   

The school board will review this proposal and make a determination on the new fees at its Wednesday, Dec. 14, board meeting at Red Canyon High School in Gypsum (395 McGregor Drive). Members of the public are invited to provide input at the beginning of each meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. For more information, visit

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