FARMINGTON — With construction well underway, the University of Maine at Farmington’s nationally accredited Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center is on track to open in early summer 2023 at its new location at 274 Front Street.
Affordable, quality child care is critical for Maine families and the renovated building will double the current building’s square footage to 10,384 square feet, opening up 20 new slots for high-quality infant and toddler care. It will also allow enrollment in UMF’s undergraduate and graduate early childhood education programs to expand by at least 20% in support of critical state workforce needs.
“The Sweatt-Winter program has served families in Franklin County and the surrounding area for more than 30 years. Our new facility will expand on both that legacy and Farmington’s continuing commitment to provide child care for working parents and to educate Maine’s future generation of early childhood educators,” said Joseph McDonnell, UMF interim president.
Two Portland-based companies, CHA Consulting, Inc., and Optimum Construction Inc., are providing the design and construction for the state-of-the-art learning center.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a dire shortage in early childhood professionals in Maine. Expansion of the University of Maine at Farmington Early Childhood Education Center to increase the availability of quality childcare will have far-reaching positive effects for the workforce and families not only in Franklin County, but across the state,” said Charles Woodworth, executive director of the Greater Franklin Economic and Community Development.
The new facility includes spacious classrooms for preschoolers and school age children with places for sharing meals, learning through play and exploring, and the facilitation of important self-help skills. It also features two new classroom spaces to help meet the needs of area families, one for a new infant and young toddler program and another for older toddlers.
“We really wanted to create a child care and early education center with a home-like environment for children and their families,” said Patricia Williams, professor of early childhood education and member of the Sweatt-Winter building committee. “Families are ready to reconnect with the community again and we hope they see the new center as a space with a rich array of experiences that enrich early learning, nurture children’s growth and where their family can feel comfortable.”
Observation areas are strategically placed in each room to help pre-service teachers observe and understand children’s play, behavior and learning styles and observe high-quality developmentally appropriate teaching practices. Additional areas include an undergraduate/graduate student classroom, a nursing room for mothers, art and multi-purpose areas, office space and a kitchen/laundry area. There will also be outdoor nature-based playgrounds specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of each age group served by the center.
“The new Sweatt-Winter facility will be a model for quality child care and early education in Maine,” said Katherine Yardley, associate provost and dean of the College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation. “Our undergraduate and graduate students will have the latest tools at their fingertips to observe, learn and put into action best practices for early childhood education. It has truly taken a village of dedication and support to make this a reality.”
UMF received approval to advance the renovation of the former call center from the University of Maine System Board of Trustees earlier this year. Funding for the expansion came from voter-approved state bonds, Gov. Mills’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan and congressionally directed spending secured by U.S. Sens. Collins and King. The Lennox Foundation contributed $100,000 specifically designated for the outdoor nature-based areas.
“This remarkable facility sets Farmington apart when it comes to meeting the needs of early childhood educators, area families needing quality child care and Maine employers,” said McDonnell. “We are thankful for the support from Gov. Mills, Sens. Collins and King, the Maine Legislature, and the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. We look forward to meeting the needs of the people of Maine and are grateful for their continued support.”
For more information about the center and availability of spaces, contact Julie Farmer, center director, at 207-778-7480 or email@example.com.