While schools in the central Maine region have begun to welcome students back into the classroom, staff at the Alfond Youth and Community Center of Waterville have been working with local superintendents to provide more child care options for families with school-aged children.

The Alfond Youth center has already launched a child care program with Waterville and Winslow schools and is working with Fairfield and Maine School Administrative District 49 to arrange a space to provide child care in that district. The center, school districts and towns are forging ahead as they await word on state funding.

During a meeting Wednesday evening, the Fairfield Town Council authorized the town manager to conclude negotiations with the Alfond Center, at 126 North St. in Waterville, to use the Fairfield Community Center as space for a potential child care program.

Town Manager Michelle Flewelling detailed how the program would work during the council meeting.

“Tentatively, it (the program) is set Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.,” Flewelling said.

The program would serve up to 50 children in the Maine School Administrative District 49 with a tentative start date of Oct. 20.

The goal of the program is to provide local families an option for child care now that school has returned in a hybrid format.

“This is a way in which we can partner with these folks (Alfond Center) and hopefully provide parents with a solution to some of the child care issues they’re having due to COVID-19,” Flewelling said.

MSAD 49, which serves the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield, has adopted a back-to-school plan that has students alternating between in-person instruction and remote learning to mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The proposed program at the Fairfield Community Center, located at 61 Water St., would provide parents with school-aged children with child care on remote learning days, Flewelling said.

“The superintendent in SAD 49 mentioned to us that there is a real need in the Fairfield community,” Ken Walsh, chief executive officer of the Alfond Center, said during a phone interview Thursday. “And we said, if we can find a space, we’d be happy to provide that service during out-of-school time. So, we worked with the town manager and the superintendent to talk about what the structure would look like and we identified the community center as a possibility.” 

The funding for the program would come through the CARES Act from the Department of Education.

“We’re excited to move forward, but the key for us is the funding,” Walsh said. “If we’re able to hire the appropriate instructors and mentors for the kids and we have the funding in place, we’re going to be able to provide this service for up to 50 kids per day.” 

MSAD 49 will find out if it was awarded the grant money to contract with the Alfond Center for a child care program by Friday, Flewelling said Wednesday.

The Alfond Center has also partnered with school districts in Waterville and Winslow.

On Tuesday, the center launched its full day child care program for up to 115 students who attend Waterville Public Schools and Winslow Public Schools, despite not having the funding secured.

“Even though we don’t have any commitments for the funding, we stuck our necks out and said well, these kids need to be somewhere,” Walsh said. “(Because) at our place, our mission has always been to serve kids.” 

Like MSAD 49, Waterville and Winslow will find out Friday if they were awarded grants from the CARES Act.

1

Walsh said launching the program for Waterville and Winslow students was easier because they already had the facility secured.

“The difference is the space. We knew that the challenges the school systems are going to have is the ‘where,'” Walsh said. “So here, with our facility, we have square footage. In the surrounding areas, it becomes more challenging because there aren’t centers this size.”

The Alfond Center is still running its regular after-school program from 2:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in addition to the new full-day program for students.

Winslow also has its own child care program, but is partnering with the Alfond Center to ensure that all families can have access to child care, even if the district’s program fills up.

“We have a lesser need than other communities, because we have our own child care program to begin with,” Superintendent Peter Thiboutot said Thursday. “So, we are partnering with Alfond as well in the event that we have some overflow.” 

Although the funding is still not secured, the Fairfield Town Council authorized for the town and the Alfond Center to sign a memorandum of understanding that details what the organization will be responsible for if it were to use Fairfield’s facility.

“The Alfond Center is responsible for employing adequate staff to maintain proper safety protocols for cleaning and social distancing as they relate to COVID-19,” Flewelling said. “They have to comply with the restrictions of COVID-19 that are currently in place. They’re responsible for all of the utility costs that we have which includes electric, heat, water, sewer, cleaning supplies, (and) trash and snow removal.”

Flewelling said the agreement for the Alfond Center to use Fairfield’s facility would run for the next four months.

“This is just an agreement through December because funding is only available through the CARES Act through December,” Flewelling said. “We have discussed the possibility of extending it, though.”

Flewelling estimates that the cost of using the facility until December won’t exceed $9,000.

“It’s impossible for us to predict exactly what it’s going to cost,” Flewelling said. “That’s simply because we’ve never had 48 children in this building from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

The Alfond Center will also be responsible for providing staff to run the program.

Flewelling also reassured the council that the program wouldn’t interfere with the upcoming election, which is held at the community center.

“We’ve had conversations about the fact that the election is in this building, and we will need to have complete access to it,” Flewelling said. “They (Alfond Center) are aware of that. They will make sure that parents are aware. … There is a provision that says if something were to come up and the municipality absolutely needs this facility, we have a way of being able to use it for our needs.”

Since the town stopped renting the facility out for events due to COVID-19, allowing the Alfond Center to use it just made sense, according to Flewelling.

“We have this space here, and if we can help at all with some of these parents and alleviate some of the stress, then why not?” Flewelling said.

In the event that the districts don’t receive funding, Walsh said the Alfond Center would continue working with superintendents and community leaders to pursue different options.

“We will look at what we can do,” Walsh said. “I would probably get together with the superintendent and the town manager and say, ‘we did not receive the funding, so what can we do? Can we work with the schools? Can we work with town officials to find appropriate people to provide this service?”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.