Letter: Don’t demolish the preschool
While the coronavirus pandemic rages on and exacerbates the national and local childcare crisis, the town of Vail and Town Council are quietly pushing forward a plan to demolish Children’s Garden of Learning and permit Vail Resorts to build its Booth Heights development on the Town-owned land. While the preschoolers’ parents applaud efforts to increase workforce housing while protecting bighorn sheep, they implore the town to find an alternative that does not come at the expense of local children.
CGL is a community-centric nonprofit providing nature-based early education to over 80 children aged 18 months to 5 years. One of only two childcare facilities in Vail, CGL is located in a safe enclave surrounded by nature and trails accessible directly from the childrens’ playground. The town is planning to raze CGL’s building without having secured any viable alternative location for CGL.
The town recently represented to CGL that its only option is to jointly occupy the Vail Gymnastics Center, with toddlers located under the gym and preschoolers on a not-yet-constructed third floor above the gym. This proposal presents a myriad of safety concerns. It does not meet child care licensing standards, as preschoolers are required to be on the floor of exit discharge, and there would be no suitable egress on the third floor. Not to mention the practical difficulty of a handful of teachers evacuating dozens of children who can barely navigate stairs down multiple flights in an emergency.
Additional safety issues range from the fall risk on the proposed rooftop playground following snow accumulation to the security issues of occupying a facility constantly accessed by individuals not associated with the child care. Other concerns include the noise level of the facility, which would host training and events at the same time 1-5 year olds are napping above and below the gymnastics floor, the logistical difficulties of sharing a single traffic circle for drop off and pick up simultaneously with Red Sandstone Elementary and gymnastics after school programs, and insufficient dedicated parking to allow parents to drop off and pick up children.
The town’s plan to demolish CGL’s home and shoehorn it into the Gymnastics Center with little hope of licensure or support from the CGL community presents an existential crisis for the program. It will disrupt the child care of more than 80 children and worsen the childcare crisis in our valley, where there are lengthy waitlists at almost every child care center, the majority of which do not accept children younger than 2.5 and have been forced to reduce capacity due to COVID-19 guidelines.
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CGL’s current setting signals to local families that the town prioritizes the safety and education of the valley’s youngest residents. CGL parents urge the town to reject CGL as a target for development. Or at the very least, secure it a home that is safe, qualifies for licensure, and meets the needs of its toddlers and preschoolers. The bighorn sheep deserve to be protected, but so do our local children.