Child’s play: Hospital center expected to open this summer

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Chris Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital, discusses Adventure Academy, a childhood education center expected to open on the hospital campus next summer. (Business Times Photo by Phil Castle)

A facility is expected to open next summer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction to provide child care services to employees there and in turn help address a child care shortage in Mesa County.

Child care is especially important in retaining and recruiting health care workers, said Chris Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital. “This is truly a workforce issue for Community Hospital.”

An event at the hospital celebrated the start of construction on Adventure Academy, an early childhood education center. The 7,500-square-foot building will be built on the hospital campus on G Road and is scheduled for completion around June, Thomas said.

The facility will be licensed to care for up to 100 children ages 6 weeks to 6 years. Thomas said 73 hospital employees are already on a waiting list for services at the center.

The project is expected to cost about $5 million. The hospital has received a total of $2.8 million in federal and state funding to help pay for the project, he said.

The Community Hospital Foundation has launched a campaign to raise an additional $2.5 million. Under a Colorado program, donors will receive a 50 percent state tax credit for their contributions.

Jennifer Knott, operator of Adventure Academy, said the center will include eight classrooms, three playgrounds, a commercial kitchen and nursery.  The center will provide what Knott described as a child-centric experience with a play-based curriculum.

The center will create 20 new jobs paying living wages and offering career pathways, she said.

The center also will help in addressing a child care shortage in Mesa County. According to one estimate, 4,000 child care slots are needed to meet workforce demands.

Stephanie Bivins, director of the Mesa County Partnership for Children and Families, said many people struggle with finding child care. “We need to improve access to child care in Mesa County.”

The Adventure Academy will help, as will a child care facility planned as part of a community campus under construction in Clifton, Bivins said.

Nicole Riehl, president and chief executive officer of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, praised Community Hospital for helping to address child care issues. Based in Denver, the nonprofit organization promotes early childhood policies and investments that in turn support the workforce and economy.

“Thanks to this amazing team for getting this done,” Riehl said.