FAIRFIELD — Maine School Administrative District 49 has been awarded a $115,521 grant that will fund a child care program in collaboration with the Alfond Youth and Community Center of Waterville for the next two months.
The grant, given to the district from the Department of Education as part of the federal CARES Act, will allow children in the district to attend an all day program at the Fairfield Community Center until Dec. 30.
Beginning on Oct. 5, the Fairfield Community Center, located at 26 Water St., will host children from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday at no cost to families.
The center will also host an after-school program from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday with a fee of $13 per day, per child. The after school program wasn’t included in the CARES funding but families can apply for scholarships through the Alfond Center.
Together, the programs will serve at most 45 children from the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.
For Superintendent Roberta Hersom, receiving the grant has brought a sense of relief.
“I’m grateful for this resource,” Hersom said. “It’s good to know that this may alleviate some of the financial burden and the challenge of securing child care caused by COVID-19.”
The district and the Alfond Center are going to continue collaborating while the fate of the school year is still up in the air, according to Hersom.
“We are also collaborating with the Alfond to plan future need for support,” Hersom said. “For example, if schools have to transition to a full remote platform due to the health environment, the AYCC may assist with those child care needs.
MSAD 49 has adopted a back-to-school plan that has students alternating between in-person instruction and remote learning to mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. Some parents have also opted to keep their children fully at home to learn remotely.
School districts in Waterville, Winslow and Oakland, that have also adopted hybrid-learning plans have partnered with the Alfond Center for child care programs.
On Sept. 8, the center launched its full day child care program for up to 115 students who attend Waterville Public Schools and Winslow Public Schools, despite not having the funding secured at the time.
On Sept. 14, Waterville Public Schools received $380,000 from the CARES Act to keep the program running at the Alfond Center.
According to Superintendent Eric Haley, $80,000 was put toward expanding the child care program at the George J. Mitchell School.
Mary Boyle, the curriculum director for Winslow Public Schools, said that the district also received grants to fund its partnership with the Alfond Center as well as expand its existing child care program.
“Our application was approved, providing a total of $117,200 to relieve families of costs for child care associated with the changes to the traditional school schedule,” Boyle said.
With the funding, the district now has 95 child care slots available each day across both its programs.
“Given the every-other-day schedule, that means that this unexpected child care need can be met for up to 190 students,” Boyle said.
To ensure that the maximum number of families have access to child care, the Alfond Center has set up an overflow location at Camp Tracy in Oakland for students who weren’t able to get into the other locations.
“One of the things early on that we thought about was what the possibility of an overflow would be,” said Ken Walsh, the Alfond Center’s chief executive officer. “We’ve hired staff and now the funding has come through, we’re getting the message out that this is a free opportunity for the parents who need it for all day.”
According to Hersom, the Camp Tracy site was awarded $100,149 from the CARES Act.
Walsh said the Alfond Center staff has been preparing the camp to welcome up to 50 children as needed.
“We’ve insulated some of our facilities there in case we need it, because we know the weather gets pretty unruly in November, December,” Walsh said. “We can max out at 50, but depending on what our need is, we’ll look into different capacities. We’re just looking at all opportunities.
“We’re trying to look at every single opportunity to partner with the schools, and we’re really excited with what’s happening.”