Gordon Bell, left, runs off with the ribbon Wednesday after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center at the University of Maine at Farmington. Bell helped cut the ribbon with classmate Henry Schoeppner, center. Watching, from left, are Gov. Janet Mills, UMF students Bre Maxim and Violette Beaulieu, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Brian Ponce/The Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins helped cut the ribbon Wednesday to formally open the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Joining them were UMF President Joseph McDonnell, Co-Provost and Dean Katherine Yardley and University of Maine System Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Carolyn Dorsey.

“This center has expanded to create four new classrooms that will provide education based on a child’s age,” Mills said, “as well as a room for UMF students to observe teachers working with children and a classroom for UMF students.”

According to Mills, the center at 274 Front St. is expected to increase enrollment for early childhood education by 20% and create 20 new slots for children in the community.

“We know how necessary that is for families in Maine, for the economy of Maine, and for UMF,” Mills said.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks Wednesday during the formal opening of the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center at the University of Maine at Farmington. Seated at left is U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, and at right is Katherine Yardley, associate provost and dean of the College of Education, Health, and Rehabilitation. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

She said her administration has invested roughly $120 million in federal funding to create more than 4,000 new child care slots across the state, as well as $50 million in state funding to continue support for Maine child care programs and continue stipends for early child care educators.


For more than 30 years, the nationally accredited program has been offering child care to the Franklin County community while providing their students with hands-on experience with child care under the supervision of licensed educators.

The road to the new Sweatt-Winter building began in January 2019, with the purchase of a former call center across from the UMF campus.

The $3.1 million to renovate the former NotifyMD call center was approved by the University of Maine System board of trustees in February 2022.

Money came from voter-approved state bonds in 2018, $1 million from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, $1 million from the U.S. Congress secured by Sen. Collins in 2022 and $100,000 from The Lennox Foundation specifically for the outdoor nature-based areas.

Called the “model for quality child care and early education in Maine” by Associate Provost and Dean of the College of Education, Health, and Rehabilitation Katherine Yardley, the building includes observation areas to help pre-service teachers observe and understand children’s play, behavior and learning styles and observe high-quality developmentally appropriate teaching practices. It also has undergraduate/graduate student classrooms, a nursing room for mothers, art and multipurpose areas, office space and a kitchen/laundry area.

The interior design was made to feel more “authentic” and “home-like,” Patty Bailie, associate professor of early childhood education, said last August. Furnishing was designed by Sandra Duncan with the help Kaplan Early Learning Co.


University of Maine at Farmington students Violette Beaulieu, left, and Bre Maxim talk Wednesday about their experience in the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center and their hopes for the program. Seated is U.S. Sen. Susan Collins who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

The furniture, as well as the layout, is centered around The Potential Place, Duncan’s trademarked design concept that connects children’s inner or emotional needs with the physical environment.

Duncan, an international consultant and author of seven books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, said, “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 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.

Originally slated to be completed by January of 2023, production delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors pushed the project back.

During this time, Erica Thompson, a 2015 graduate of UMF, was named director of the program. She called the program’s first year a “play year” as they get settled in.

“We are figuring out what we use and what’s needed,” she said.

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