BOULDER — A gray building behind Boulder Elementary School may not look very notable yet. Soon though, it’s set to become the Boulder Childcare Center – the product of a yearlong effort to bring more child care services to the community.
In 2021, a working group began talking about the growing need for child care in Boulder. Those discussions led to the formation of Southwest Montana Youth Partners, a nonprofit that will support a new licensed program there. Now, SMYP has put out a request for proposals, looking for the provider who will come in, take over the new Childcare Center and bring it to life.
“They’re going to have, when it’s all said, a turnkey facility,” said Tim Norbeck, vice-chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “Not too many people get that; they’re usually doing it themselves or trying to find a place or whatever. That’s not the case here.”
The RFP is open to anyone. The SMYP board plans to negotiate an operating plan with the provider they eventually select. Their goal is to make the program sustainable, affordable for families and able to provide strong wages for staff. They hope to award a contract in September.
The program is expected to serve about 28 kids, ranging from infants to age 5. Norbeck said that will be a big step forward in addressing the need.
“I think it’ll make a huge dent,” he said.
A wide variety of stakeholders has taken part in this effort, from individuals to the city of Boulder and Jefferson County, local schools, Jefferson Local Development Corporation and more. Leaders say having adequate child care available will make a huge difference to working families in the community and remove a barrier to economic vitality.
“The two main distractors in a lot of places is child care and housing, so we can address one of them with this facility and this organization,” Norbeck said.
The partnerships began with the building itself. It was previously owned by Kim Smith of Valley Sand and Gravel and sat next to Jim Darcy Elementary in the Helena Valley. Local government contributed ARPA funding to purchase the building, and it was hauled to Boulder, where Boulder Elementary School offered space for it.
Lindsey Graham was hired as child care coordinator, a position funded through a grant from the Headwaters Foundation. She’s worked on getting the nonprofit up and running and on getting the facility ready for a provider to come in.
“We want to make sure the building is the safest possible for kids,” Graham said.
In the coming weeks, they will repaint, put in new flooring, replace windows and install cabinets. A kitchen will be added to meet requirements for a child care center. A large outdoor area between the center and the school will be fenced off.
While there’s still work to do, Norbeck said they’re already excited about getting so close to their goal.
“We appreciate this opportunity to get out what Southwest Montana Youth Partners is doing in this community and hopefully to expand it into other parts of Jefferson County and have an example of how it should work for others in rural Montana,” he said.
If you’re interested in responding to the RFP, you can get a copy of it by contacting Graham at email@example.com or (406) 240-5818. Applications are due Aug. 15.