With the opening of a new infant and toddler center, the Dolores school district now serves students between the ages of 6 weeks and 3 years old.
“It’s amazing, we are so excited to offer this for local families,” said Valiena Rosenkrance, director of the Teddy Bear Preschool, during a ribbon-cutting on Aug. 18.
The center was a community collaboration, she said, kicked off by a $23,000 grant from the Buell Foundation and Colorado Department of Education. Another $23,000 worth of free labor, cash and materials were donated by local businesses, individuals, the school and town government.
“Their generosity made it happen, and we are very grateful because we could not have done it without the community’s help” Rosenkrance said.
The children’s school is in a large remodeled modular building donated by the school district and moved next door to the Teddy Bear Preschool at 1550 Hillside Drive.
“The children will now have an ideal transition from the toddler center to the preschool, creating a more stable and comfortable experience,” Rosenkrance said.
The fee-based school will serve eight toddlers and eight infants in two separate classrooms. It will be run by two qualified teachers with degrees in early childhood development, plus two certified teacher aides. The cost is $36 per day.
The new school features large playrooms with colorful rugs, kid-sized furniture, and shelves filled with toys and children’s books. In the infant classroom, eight wooden cribs await the town’s youngest generation.
“They will receive the love and attention they deserve, with two teachers per eight children,” said newly hired teacher Renee Craft, who has 12 years of experience.
The center focuses on teaching social skills, attention and cognitive skills, and how to work autonomously, she said.
“Also very important is the positive connection to teachers early on, an experience that will benefit them throughout their school life,” Craft said.
Another advantage is troubleshooting for behavior, speech and motor-skill issues, including dexterity, crawling and walking.
“Problems can be diagnosed early on, we can bring in specialists, and help get issues addressed and corrected before they move on to preschool,” said school Superintendent Scott Cooper.
The infant-toddler center also benefits the overall family, officials added during presentations, giving parents the option to work additional jobs to make ends meet.
It was noted that the recent closure of a day care center in the Dolores area has created a local need, and a lack of day care centers is a statewide problem.
Dolores schools will be giving a presentation on their success at a meeting with superintendents from around the state in October.
The Dolores infant-toddler center is booked for now, but there is room in upcoming school years. For more information on enrollment, call 970-882-7277.