Building located at 274 Front Street in Farmington to be renovated for new UMF Sweatt-Winter Early Childhood Education Center. Submitted photo

FARMINGTON — University of Maine System Board of Trustees have given the University of Maine at Farmington approval to advance the renovation of a former call center at 274 Front Street into the future home of its nationally accredited Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center.

The new 10,384 square foot state-of-the-art child care and academic facility will allow UMF to create at least 20 slots for high-quality infant and toddler care in Franklin County, and 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.The center is expected to open in January 2023.

At its meeting this week, System Trustees authorized UMF to spend up to $3.1 million, contingent on the receipt of public funds already pledged toward the project.

This includes $1 million from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan – the proposal put forth by Governor Mills and supported by the Maine Legislature to invest the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan relief funds. It also includes $600,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending, known commonly as earmarks, that Senators Susan Collins and Angus King requested in the federal FY22 budget that is still being negotiated in Washington.

Previously, the Sweatt-Winter expansion project received $1.4 million from a bond for UMS workforce development infrastructure approved by voters statewide in 2018. The Lennox Foundation contributed $100,000.

“One of the highest priorities for higher education is preparing the next generation of educators,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Maine families have to have access to reliable child care and great local schools. We are investing in programs and facilities that can help meet that need.”

“We are so appreciative to the Board of Trustee’s support for this important project, and the investment supported by the Legislature, Governor Mills, Maine’s Congressional Delegation and ultimately, the people of Maine,” said UMF president Edward Serna. “Teacher education programs are a hallmark of Farmington and renovating this facility will provide improved instructional space for students preparing to be early childhood educators while also expanding our opportunities to provide high quality care and education for area children.”

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