FAIRFIELD — Kennebec Valley Community College officials said Wednesday they’re launching a new online course for child care providers to help keep children and families safe as the coronavirus pandemic continues a year later.

The Childcare Provider Foundations course aims to teach safe practices and procedures, in collaboration with Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Educare, Maine Department of Health & Human Services and Maine Roads to Quality. KVCC is spearheading the development of training that will provide knowledge of foundational practice necessary in response to COVID-19.

“This training demonstrates the power of statewide collaboration to keep our communities safe, healthy and vigilant during the ongoing pandemic,” said Richard Hopper, president of Kennebec Valley Community College. “Micro-credentials, such as the Childcare Provider Foundations badge, offer an important and reassuring signal to families who rely on child care services.”

In January, the Council for a Strong America released a report detailing the lack of quality early childhood care and education in rural Maine communities. In rural Maine, 22% of children live in poverty, the report says, which is an occurrence more severe than in nonrural areas of the state, where that number is 13.5%.

In these rural areas, like Somerset County, children often lack resources and supports, including early childhood care and education.

Because of the lack of resources and support, rural communities are challenged. The dearth of resources in rural areas could negatively impact the state’s economic strength, workforce and quality of life. The Council for a Strong America argues early childhood care and education is essential to turning that negative forecast into a positive result.

The course provided at KVCC will train providers on core skills to operate child care facilities during the pandemic, including screening for symptoms, managing children that become ill, safe pick-up and drop-off procedures as well as protocols on how to communicate with parents and staff.

Providers will also learn enhanced sanitation and behavioral skills to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom as well as information awareness, guiding child care providers to key resources so they have updated knowledge as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention updates recommendations and requirements.

“Educare learned a great deal operating during this pandemic,” said Tracye Fortin, executive director of Educare Central Maine. “We were delighted to partner in the development of this important … badge as an early childhood model program.”

If high quality child care were available to every family across the state, the workforce and economy would thrive and encourage families to move to the state and raise their children.

The Childcare Provider Foundations course is the most recent in a series of COVID-19 courses funded by Maine Quality Center grants. Since its inception last April, more than 10,000 have completed COVID-19 courses. Industry-specific resources are available for workers in the restaurant, lodging, ski, retail and tourism industries.

Additional information can be found on KVCC’s website.

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