CARIBOU, Maine — A public youngster care middle in Aroostook County that made nationwide headlines for dropping 23 lecturers faces closure after its one-time allocation of federal stimulus cash runs out in October.
Jordyn Rossignol runs the one public youngster care middle within the Caribou area, which encompasses town’s 80 sq. miles and a number of other small cities. However when her American Rescue Plan funding ends, it should depart 106 kids ranging in age from 6 months to 12 years previous with out youngster care.
Rossignol’s downside highlights the problem of operating this important service in Maine’s most rural counties.
Although Aroostook has the best price of pre-Okay college students in Maine, it’s labeled as a “youngster care desert” as a result of shortage of licensed suppliers who serve infants and toddlers.
A 2021 report from the Council for a Robust America discovered that 26 % of youngsters in Maine’s most rural counties, together with Aroostook, Washington, Somerset and Piscataquis, dwell in a type of deserts — which is the place there are greater than three kids beneath age 5 for every licensed youngster care slot. The council used knowledge from the Maine Division of Well being and Human Providers to attract its conclusions.
However a possible partnership between Rossignol’s middle and the Caribou-Stockholm faculty district might function a mannequin for a way Maine might make youngster care entry extra equitable and inexpensive.
Not like Aroostook’s school-based pre-Okay applications, public and home-based youngster care facilities don’t obtain state funding and rely solely on tuition that households pay out of pocket.
Rossignol, who operates Miss Jordyn’s Youngster Care and Preschool, has seen at the least 20 households pull their kids out of her middle for the reason that begin of COVID-19 — at first as a result of one father or mother left work to care for his or her kids who attended faculty remotely, and now as a result of financial challenges that the pandemic has precipitated, akin to greater prices for meals and gasoline.
Though at the least a dozen home-based daycares exist inside Caribou, they’re licensed for fewer than 20 kids, making Rossignol’s the one public daycare with a capability of greater than 100. With 106 kids, Rossignol is working at her middle’s capability.
The variety of home-based youngster care facilities in Maine dropped 27.5 % throughout the COVID pandemic, reducing entry total.
Just lately, Rossignol held a roundtable dialogue that included faculty officers, Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and Maine Division of Training Commissioner Pender Makin. The group explored how they might collaborate with Rossignol to supply each day youngster care providers at Caribou Group College, the SAD 39 district’s pre-Okay to grade 8 faculty.
The Caribou faculty district would offer daycare area and licensed lecturers, ed techs and social employees that the district already employs, Superintendent Tim Doak stated. Rossignol’s employees would profit from the identical early childhood coaching as RSU 39 workers.
That sort of partnership would profit mother and father and kids, Doak stated. Extra mother and father might return to the workforce with out the stress of paying tuition, whereas their kids achieve high quality early training.
“For the longest time, we’ve got considered youngster care as babysitting providers, nevertheless it’s about getting children prepared for varsity,” Doak stated.
Doak’s district has seen firsthand how lack of entry to youngster care prevents many mother and father from staying within the workforce.
“We nearly misplaced a science instructor this 12 months due to that,” he stated.
Rossignol and Doak aren’t alone of their issues. Final 12 months, the pair organized two group conferences in Fort Fairfield, the place Doak can be district superintendent, to gauge help for a brand new early childhood middle there.
These conversations have since died down and may not proceed if the Fort Fairfield district doesn’t discover a approach to construct a middle with little or no reliance on native taxpayers. For any youngster care partnership to succeed, this system would wish dependable state funding sources, Rossignol stated.
The group hopes to faucet into newly established state assets, together with Gov. Janet Mills’ Maine Jobs and Restoration Plan. The plan contains $25 million devoted to serving to youngster care applications renovate, broaden or construct new services.
The Maine DOE, which not too long ago rolled out a primary spherical of ARPA-funded pre-Okay monies, is exploring methods to assist districts like Caribou that wish to create public youngster care partnerships, Commissioner Makin stated Thursday whereas visiting Aroostook County.
Rossignol hopes that this time the connections she has made lead to extra than simply conversations.
“We have to discover a concrete answer earlier than it’s too late,” she stated.