IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
Leadville, Colorado was in trouble when James McCabe became superintendent of its Lake County Schools (enrolling 1,100 students in a small rural valley of about 5,000 residents) in 1987. The county's economic base collapsed when a local molybdenum mine shut down, throwing nearly 3,000 people out of work in a one-company town. Forced to drive 45 miles or more to find work at half the wages, Leadville men and women began operating ski-lifts, selling tickets and ski equipment, and cleaning hotel rooms at Colorado's resorts.
McCabe's solution was straightforward. Combine the need for day care with the equally pressing need for pre-school preparation in this low-income community. Organizing a community team, he persuaded the school district to turn over an elementary school which would be used for (1) an affordable pre-school program for every 2 1/2 to 5 year old child in the county; (2) affordable day care for all children through age ten 365 days a year (5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.); and (3) before- and after-school care for all 5- to 13 year olds in the county-all without using local property tax money.
Activities at "The Center" snowballed. Originally intended for perhaps 100 students, there are now nearly 700 students enrolled in all of its programs. The facility's annual budget of $600,000 is financed with federal, state, and local grants, philanthropic contributions, and modest fees scaled on ability to pay. Its most impressive accomplishment is helping lower the proportion of low-income families in the county by freeing parents to find work.
Meeting Student Needs in the Southwest Developing a New Generation of Scientists, Scholars, and Leaders