It’s nap time, so everyone is speaking in hushed tones. Large trucks rumble across the highway outside. Inside, Allison Ashburn is running from room to room, sanitizing tables and toys, door handles and counter tops.
She’s excited to move.
“Being off the interstate now is a little bit scary, so I think it’ll be a safer environment,” she said.
The daycare — Kids Kampus — sits off Curtis Street at the mouth of Evansville between I-25 and U.S. Highway 20. But by the fall, the roughly 40 kids in the daycare will be able to play outside without the roar of 80 mph traffic in the background.
The Casper Housing Authority, which owns and operates the Kids Kampus, plans to move the facility into the former North Casper Elementary School — and the daycare won’t be the only one moving. The housing authority itself, which bought the building in March, will move its operations there. It hopes to have the entire daycare moved in by September.
Ashburn is looking forward to serving more families with the new space’s increased capacity. She’s also eager to utilize the large gymnasium and the vast outdoor areas the new location offers. The expansion will also allow the daycare to extend its hours from weekdays only to evenings and weekends.
The elementary school was shuttered in 2015, though Midwest School students finished the 2015-16 school year there after a gas leak.
Kim Summerall-Wright, the housing authority’s executive director, said there are a lot of plans for the new space. They’re going to build an indoor playground in the school’s gym, which on cold or rainy days will supplement the outdoor playground they also plan to build.
It’s a perfect fit, Summerall-Wright said. The classrooms, long empty, will again be filled with children. And the building will house more than an expanded daycare, as the housing authority’s administrative and maintenance offices will all move to the old school.
The buildings the housing authority currently occupies will go back on the market. That includes the daycare center at 12 Curtis St. and the current administrative office building at 145 N. Durbin St.
“What we’re really trying to do is position the agency for growth,” Summerall-Wright said.
The housing authority has grown substantially over the last five years. It has expanded its Section 8 offerings, doubled its program for homeless veterans and was recently designated as a national Project Homeless Connect agency — the first in the state.
The housing authority also opened the new Raven Crest apartment complex earlier this year. It’s Wyoming’s only Rental Assistance Demonstration program, a pilot program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development that utilizes public and private investment to support public housing.
But while the housing authority continues to grow, it still can’t meet all of the need that exists, Summerall-Wright said.
“We can house 1 percent of the Casper population,” she said. “But the poverty rate is 11 percent.”
The housing authority often has waitlists for its housing options, and it can take months for units to open up.
Summerall-Wright’s hope is that in the next five years, the housing authority will be able to expand its housing capacity and offer resources for people to move themselves off of public housing altogether.
One new tool the authority plans to offer at the new location is a self-sufficiency training program called Connections to Success. Seton House, another local resource for low-income and homeless residents, will lead the training.
More information on that program will be available in a few months, Summerall-Wright said.