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Wonderland Nature School will become Little Adventures Child Care Center

A joint press release from Wonderland Nature School, Gunnison Valley Health and Little Adventures Child Care Facility

On Friday, March 1, 2024, Wonderland Nature School will transition to Little Adventures Child Care Center. The change is the culmination of months of work by the Wonderland Nature School Board of Directors to address budgetary and operational issues. The transition will ensure there is no disruption in care for families and the employees of Wonderland Nature School do not lose their livelihood. The childcare facility will see no disruption in service and will continue providing care for families in the Gunnison Valley.

According to a statement from Lauren Cooper, Treasurer of the Wonderland Nature School Board of Directors, the transition is a wonderful opportunity to enhance the capabilities and quality of services offered by the existing Wonderland team.

“For the past several months we have worked tirelessly to find solutions to the serious challenges facing our nonprofit school. Wonderland is facing budgetary shortfalls we have been unable to overcome that would have meant permanently closing our doors at the end of February. Thankfully, the Access Early Education Foundation, an industry-leading childcare company, is willing to take over operations as Little Adventures Child Care Center which will ensure continuity of care for our families and preserve this valuable childcare resource for the entire community.”

The business issues at Wonderland Nature School came to the surface in September of 2023 when the school approached Gunnison Valley Health for support because they were facing a situation in which they were unable to make payroll, pay their monthly rent to the health system and remain in operation for longer than two weeks. Gunnison Valley Health, with support from Gunnison County, stepped in to keep the childcare facility operational. They began working with the executive director to assess the extent of the situation and implement solutions to keep the childcare facility operational.

Gunnison Valley Health agreed to suspend their monthly lease payments and began working with the Wonderland board to stabilize operations and find the necessary funds to sustain operations. Gunnison Valley Health’s Vice President of Operations, Wade Baker, joined the Wonderland Board of Directors and Angela Kobel, the health system’s Chief Financial Officer, began providing guidance to address the financial challenges. The Gunnison Valley Health Board of Trustees authorized the health system to extend a line of credit to Wonderland Nature School to ensure that its employees would be paid, and operations would continue. Ultimately, Gunnison Valley Health spent over $47,000 to ensure that Wonderland would remain operational and that its employees would continue to receive their paychecks.

In an effort to support Wonderland’s operations long-term, Gunnison Valley Health’s Vice President of Community Wellness and Development, Jenny Birnie, began providing executive coaching and support to Wonderland’s executive director. However, in January of 2024, Wonderland’s executive director submitted her resignation, and it became apparent that a long-term solution needed to be identified. Gunnison Valley Health reached out to colleagues at Community Hospital in Grand Junction and were connected with Jennifer Knott from the Early Childhood Education Center. Knott is operating the 106-slot childcare center built on the campus of Community Hospital and has extensive experience launching and managing large childcare centers.

Knott met with the Wonderland Board of Directors and agreed to transition operations to the Access Early Childhood Education Center.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the Little Adventures Child Care Center to Gunnison. The dedication and care demonstrated by the Wonderland employees have been incredible and I look forward to the things we will achieve together,” Knott said. “I want to reassure the families and the community that my goal is to strengthen and enhance this service.”

Gunnison Valley Health CEO, Jason Amrich, expressed his support of Knott.

"Having accessible and stable childcare is foundational for families in our community,” Amrich said. “Jennifer and her team have a proven record of success on the Western Slope, and I am grateful that they are bringing their talents to the Gunnison Valley."