Gordon Bell, left, runs off with the ribbon Wednesday, March 27, 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 — The University of Maine at Farmington held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site of the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center on Wednesday, March 27. Gov. Janet Mills and Sen. Susan Collins held the ribbon for two of the children enrolled in the program, who cut it using safety scissors.

Located at 274 Front Street in Farmington, the 10,384 square foot center and its staff saw appearances from Mills, Collins, UMF President Joseph McDonnell, Co-Provost and Dean Katherine Yardley, and UMS 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 new center is expected to increase enrollment of students specializing in the early childhood education program by 20%, as well as 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 stated.

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

In her speech, Mills went on to state 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 investing $50 million in state funding to continue support for Maine childcare 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 of 2019, with the purchase of former call center directly across from the UMF campus.

Originally a NotifyMD call center, the location has undergone heavy renovations since then to meet the standards of the Sweatt-Winter program and exceed them by expanding the program to include 20 additional slots for high-quality infant and toddler care.

The $3.1 million funding for the renovations was approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees in February of 2022.

Funding came from voter-approved State bonds in 2018, $1 million came from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, $1 million from Congressionally Directed Spending and $100,000 from The Lennox Foundation specifically for the outdoor nature-based areas.

Called the “model for quality childcare and early education in Maine” by Associate Provost and Dean of the College of Education, Health, and Rehabilitation Katherine Yardley, the new 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, as well as undergraduate/graduate student classrooms, a nursing room for mothers, art and multi-purpose areas, office space and a kitchen/laundry area.


Henry Schoeppner, center, cuts the ribbon to formally open the new Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center on Wednesday, March 27. Also pictured, from left to right, Gov. Janet Mills, Director Erica Thompson, UMF Student Violette Beaulieu, Sweatt-Winter student Gordon Bell, and Sen. Susan Collins. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

The design of the interior was made to feel more “authentic” and “home-like” according to Patty Bailie, associate professor of early childhood education when The Franklin Journal took a tour of the incomplete facility in August of last year.

Furnishing was designed by Sandra Duncan with the help of Kaplan Early Learning Co.

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 UMF graduate of the Class of 2015, was announced as the new director of the program. Starting in September, Thompson had a few weeks to get adjusted before the Sweatt-Winter program started making the big move into the nearly finished facility.

Opening its doors in October, Thompson 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 shared.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.