Last week the Herald highlighted the current challenges our community faces in early childhood care and education. We — the Bright Start Learning Center Board of Directors — celebrate this growing awareness. We also celebrate the collaborative efforts of our local, regional and state partners to work together towards a better future of early childhood education and caretaking in Lake County. We are honored and thankful to be part of that collaboration.
We also wish to add some context to our closure. Bright Start closed in the spring — like most everything else — due to COVID-19. Reopening was then delayed by a necessary change of location. Bright Start was poised to reopen in September out of Pitts Elementary, thanks to a partnership with Lake County School District. However, Bright Start was unable to reopen because we did not have two director-qualified staff available, as required by Colorado state childcare regulations for a center of our size. The current state of closure of Lake County’s only licensed childcare facility for children under the age of three is due to the challenges of attracting and retaining enough qualified personnel. Thank goodness The Center is available for ages three-to-five, and thank goodness the resilient folk of Lake County have been able to find what childcare solutions they can.
However, we know that many of these “solutions” are not adequate. Many families have foregone one income because of lack of childcare. Some older siblings are missing out on their own education to care for young ones in the home. Some children are spending their days in less-than-safe situations. This is not good enough for our Lake County kids and Lake County families.
Doctors, nurses, teachers, snowplow drivers, utility workers, grocers. You name it, everyone either depends on childcare, or depends on someone who depends on childcare. High quality, affordable childcare is critical to the wellbeing and health of our kiddos; it is critical to the prosperity of our families; it is essential for a vibrant economy. We join our childcare partners in dreaming of a much better future. We have a lot of hard work ahead, and collaboration will be paramount, but in this future Lake County will be an even better place to raise a family; early childhood professionals must be compensated equitably for the tremendous — and essential — job that they do; and there will be a great choice for every family and every child.
The Bright Start board is currently assessing how to re-open in a sustainable way, and how a licensed childcare center can best thrive in our unique community. We are currently working on solutions to our location and personnel challenges. We know there is urgent need for childcare now, which makes patience difficult. Nonetheless, we are taking this opportunity to join the county-wide strategic planning process so that when we open our doors next, we open them well, and can continue excellent care and education for our youngest Lake County residents.
The Bright Start Learning Center Board of Directors:
Kayla Marcella, Cisco Tharp, Jenny Abbott, Mary Lewin, Lauren Barrette, Katie Duggin and Kristen Voegtle