That would give working parents a dependable option for child care, and perhaps draw more families to the region.
Kylee Miller, director at Little Schoolhouse Childcare in Greenville, teaches children about the letter "J." Credit: Courtesy of the Little Schoolhouse Childcare

 

GREENVILLE, Maine — After the only major child care center in Greenville announced it was closing in December 2021, area leaders and residents came together to renovate it and keep it running. Now they’re planning to build a $1.5 million facility to serve more families.

The facility will be built on Greenville Consolidated School grounds, on the site of the former elementary school that was demolished about a decade ago, because infrastructure for water, heat and other necessities remain. It will include early child care space for 70 children, prekindergarten classrooms and recreational programming for kids and adults.

Those behind the project — which secured $1.5 million in federal funding after the 2023 omnibus spending bill passed last month — say it was designed to solve multiple problems in Greenville and surrounding communities.

Parents will finally have a dependable option for child care that allows them to work, and it could draw new families to contribute to the region’s workforce. Young students will have an easier transition to the kindergarten-through-12th-grade building, and their after-school activities and sports will be on the same campus.

“From the perspective of working families, it will allow people to have reliable, quality child care options and training for our teachers,” said Jennifer Clark, Moosehead Caring for Kids Foundation treasurer. “It’s also a necessary part of the infrastructure for the town to continue to grow.”

Greenville’s recreation services will all be housed in one location, near athletic fields and an area for concessions, hopefully bringing the center of town to life, Town Manager Mike Roy said.

“Having this building on the school campus next to the fields and the track so anyone using the recreation center can walk the track on a nice day, it’s a win-win,” he said.

The project is about $1.5 million, but fundraising may be necessary if costs increase, said Clark, a Greenville resident and pediatrician in Dover-Foxcroft. The Moosehead Caring for Kids Foundation — established last year by a group of parents and residents committed to finding solutions to limited child care — received the federal funding and will donate it to the town, which residents must approve at the annual meeting in June.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican and senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, sponsored requests for funding in the omnibus bill approved in December, including this project and others in Piscataquis County.

If costs for the building climb significantly and taxpayer dollars are needed, the project will come before voters, Roy said.

The Greenville Select Board has supported the effort, and the town will no longer have to spend more than $600 a month on leased space for gym access, he said. Residents will likely have to pay a membership fee.

The multipurpose facility building will include a conference room for meetings, space designated for weights and other exercise equipment, a kitchen, bathrooms and an area for concessions during games, Clark said.

Child care was a major issue when Kelly MacFadyen became superintendent three years ago. Parents inquired about before-school care specifically, and the district doesn’t offer after-school programming besides a homework club twice a week and several recreational options, she said.

When the Moosehead Lake region’s ski resort redevelopment was still in the works, child care came up as a barrier for workers who would need to move to the area for construction and other jobs, MacFadyen said.

Greenville Consolidated School began offering a prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds this year, thanks to a $114,000 grant, which has helped, she said. Project leaders are discussing whether to move the program to the new facility.

“What started off trying to meet a child care need has expanded into this community concept that gets more services to kids,” she said.

Children attending Little Schoolhouse Childcare on Scammon Road, which is licensed to serve 20 children and has a waiting list, will move to the facility once it opens. Several teachers will likely be hired to oversee child care, though those involved with the project are working through logistics, Clark said.

With help from the foundation and business owner James Otis’ donation, Janet Chasse bought the business to save the only major child care center in town, known then as Hole in the Woods Childcare, after it went up for sale in December 2021. There were two other child care options in town, though their capacity was even more limited and they were operated out of people’s homes, she said.

Chasse, a former Select Board member, ran it for six months knowing it would eventually function as Little Schoolhouse Childcare, whose nonprofit status is pending. Over the months, volunteers and businesses donated their time and money to renovate the building. There are now freshly painted walls, new toys, improved security and other features.

“We’re not going to walk in there with 70 kids. It’s going to grow as parents come forward,” Chasse said. “Before- and after-school [programming] will be really huge. That’s a problem for parents — leaving young kids at home when they’re working.”

The superintendent, town manager and foundation members will meet this week to discuss next steps and the formation of a building committee. Ideally, construction would begin sometime this year, Clark said.