The inside of the observation room in the new Sweatt-Winter Building at the University of Maine Farmington. Students will be able to sit and observe without disturbing the children. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Since January of 2019, the University of Maine in Farmington has been trying to move their nationally accredited Sweatt-Winter Early Care and Education program into a new facilities. Through unexpected delays, the new home for the program on 274 Front Street in Farmington is nearing completion.

Purchased in 2019, the new facility will offer double what the program has currently in terms of square footage, with the new building coming in at approximately 10,384-square-feet. Formerly a NotifyMD call center, UMF got approval from University of Maine System Board of Trustees to advance the renovation of the center in February of 2022.

The new building is expected to create 20 new slots for children in the Franklin County area, as well as increase enrollment in its undergraduate and graduate early childhood education programs by at least 20% in support of critical state workforce needs in the sector that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

One of the many alcoves in the new Sweatt-Winter building at the University of Maine Farmington. Neutral colors were chosen to help calm the environment, which will soon have kids running around in it. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

The Franklin Journal was given a sneak peek of the building, which is still under construction. Originally estimated to be ready in January of this year, the building is expected to be open by the fall. In an interview with Director of Facilities Management Keenan Farwell on Thursday, Aug. 10, he stated the delays in shipping in the wake of COVID-19 have increased the estimated time of projects like this by about six months.

The building will expand the program from two classrooms to four classrooms, with the two additional classrooms specializing in infant and toddler development. All four classrooms will also have an observation room, where students in the program can sit behind a two-way mirror and observe those teaching the children without disturbing the classroom environment.

“This will be used not just for the practical classes, but for other early childhood classrooms,” Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education Patty Bailie said. “They’ll come in and observe how they teach math, or how they do language literacy.”


Bailie also stated that cameras and microphones would be added to every room. Video monitors would be set up in the classroom designated for the undergraduate and graduate students for them to observe the teaching staff as they interact with the children.

Also featured in the building are furnishing designed by Dr. Sandra Duncan with Kaplan Early Learning Company. Duncan stated that her design of the furniture, as well as the layout, was centered around The Potential Place, her trademarked design strategy that connects children’s inner [or emotional] needs with the physical built environment.

“What we’re starting to develop right here,” Duncan shared, “It’s the intersection between the child in the space and in that intersection, you give children opportunities to experience power and kinship.”

On her website, Duncan describes the potential place as five design conditions of emotions, which are power, thrill, awe, intimacy, and kinship. “Awe and wonder are the spatial conditions of emotion that we’re trying to incorporate into every center and every classroom design,” she said.

The cribs area of the new Sweatt-Winter building at the University of Maine Farmington. With the new building the program will be expanding to infants and toddlers. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Bailie, who was a part of the building committee for the project, said that bringing the feeling of the outdoors into the classroom was fundamental in the design of the new building.

“The goal of the classrooms is to make it as authentic [and] more home-like,” she said. “[We wanted] natural materials to be more nature oriented, and bring a lot of the nature aspects into the classroom.”

The cost for renovation, which was last reported at $3.1 million dollars, was authorized by System Trustees, with $1 million from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, $600,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending and $100,000 from The Lennox Foundation contributed specifically for the outdoor nature-based areas.

“We are thankful for the support from Governor Mills, Senators Collins and King, the Maine Legislature, and the University of Maine System Board of Trustees,” Joseph McDonnell, president of UMF, stated in a press release. “We look forward to meeting the needs of the people of Maine and are grateful for their continued support.”

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