Small community, big accomplishment

If you don’t usually pick up a copy of our sister newspaper, the Lake Placid News, this week would be a good week to do it.

On the front page of the paper, Enterprise and News Staff Writer Lauren Yates writes about an effort to construct a new, standalone building for the Little Peaks Preschool and Early Childhood Center in Keene.

Much like a few years ago, when the community of about 1,100 people came together to raise well over $1 million to renovate the Keene Valley Library, the community has come together again to raise more than $1.4 million to kickstart the construction of Little Peaks’ scenic new home by Dart Brook. A part-time Keene Valley resident, Annette Merle-Smith, also donated $500,000 toward a $3 million endowment fund intended to subsidize tuition for families in need and provide staff with higher wages.

That’s a massive amount of money raised by residents of such a small town, and doesn’t even include the volunteer hours members of the community are putting in to make this a reality. It just goes to show what can happen when a community comes together for a good cause.

This investment will go a long way: Not only will Little Peaks have a new home, but it will allow the facility to expand from its current three-hour-per-day program serving eight children to a full childcare center with more slots available.

Creating this new home for Little Peaks is so crucial, especially at a time when it’s getting harder and harder for parents in the Adirondacks to find affordable child care.

A recent report from the Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance, an organization established by the Adirondack Foundation with a focus on child care advocacy and research, shows that 80% of census tracts in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and Warren counties are considered “child care deserts,” meaning the number of children far outpaces the number of child care slots available. And even as the need for child care continues, the number of available slots is declining. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of regulated slots in early childhood education programs in this five-county region declined by 586, leaving 4,711 slots for the 11,000 children under 6 years old living here, according to the Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance report. Of those 4,711 slots, 34% are in Franklin and Essex counties.

One of the best parts about this Little Peaks project is that if all goes as planned, the center plans to provide kids with not only healthy food and a safe environment in which to spend their early years, but high-quality, meaningful care. Executive Director Reid Jewett Smith told the News that the Little Peaks board and staff want kids to be able to create works of art, ride indoor tricycles, help out with kitchen tasks and spend a lot of time outdoors, whether that be working in a vegetable garden behind the center or playing on a playground.

Jewett Smith said she hopes to see the new building open in 2023, marking a new chapter in Little Peaks’ 30-something year history.

This was an inspirational effort and it’s great news for Keene and the broader region.

Anyone interested in taking a peak at the project’s progress will have the opportunity next week: An open house has been scheduled for 5 p.m. this coming Tuesday.


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