WATERVILLE — Educare Central Maine has started welcoming back children and families to its school after closing its doors in mid-March to COVID-19, according to a news release from Tracye Fortin, executive director.

New health procedures and recommendations are allowing families and children to transition back to Educare. “We worked extremely hard to gather information from local, state and federal sources in the establishment of protocols to keep children and staff safe,” said Fortin in the release. “We are now into Week #3 of re-operating, and are pleased to share the transition has been extremely smooth! Both staff and families have commented favorably on the extensive attention to health and safety which also includes the outdoors as a learning environment.”

Educare is currently enrolled at 50% with plans to increase to 75% capacity during the month of June. “I am so proud of our educators and our public/private partnerships, including our home/school parent connections,” Fortin continued. “We have been able to stay engaged with families through distance learning and various supports to promote continuous learning. It is heartwarming to see toddlers waving hello to their teachers and good-bye to their parents, emphasizing how important the continual virtual connections as well as home physical distancing visits contributed to the security children feel with their teacher.”

The shutdown brought to light how crucial quality childcare is to the community and the economy. “When childcare and schools are shut down, our communities struggle to operate. Childcare is vital to the workforce and to business operations,” said Fortin.

Since closing, teachers and staff supported children and families not only with remote learning, but also providing food, diapers, formula and educational supplies. “Our community has been wonderful. We received donations of learning materials, cleaning supplies and gardening items to help with remote learning,” said Erin Merrill, Educare’s development director. “The Mid-Maine Chamber, KV Connect, SAPPI and Marden’s helped with a donation of more than 500 books to children in our community.”

Educare’s goal is to have all children return to the classrooms by August pending any additional restrictions or changes to the current recommendations.

Educare Central Maine is a high quality learning and development center partnering with families and communities to ensure school readiness for children birth to age 5.  For more information, visit educarecentralmaine.org.

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