WATERVILLE – Governor John E. Baldacci and First Lady Karen Baldacci today joined philanthropists, donors, supporters and local, State and federal officials to break ground on the first Educare Center in New England. The ceremony marked the beginning of the construction phase of the 37,000 square foot early learning center which will be located next to the George J. Mitchell Elementary School.
“In Maine, we have made important strides to invest in key infrastructure areas such as biotechnology, energy, transportation and K-16 education,” Governor Baldacci said. “Research tells us that 90 percent of our children’s brains are developed and wired for learning by the age of five. Yet, we spend less than four percent of public resources to support early learning and development.”
Educare is a unique partnership between State and local government, private investors, and State and national foundations to fund the construction phase. Once the facility is built, the operational program will be managed and sustained through existing federal and State funds that flow through Waterville Public School and Kennebec Valley Community Action Program’s Head Start.
Governor Baldacci said that Educare will bring jobs and opportunities to people in Central Maine.
“Once the facility is completed, Educare will employ at least 60 professionals year-round,” the Governor said. “It will also bring in groups of college students working on their degrees in early childhood from Kennebec Valley Community College, the University of Maine at Farmington and others.”
Doris Buffett inspired the Maine Educare partnership by committing $3 million as seed funds towards the center. The William and Joan Alfond Foundation has provided $2 million to be matched by the final $4 million to complete construction and create a start-up endowment. Recently, Governor Baldacci with the support of the Maine Legislature invested $2 million toward the Alfond match from Federal Recovery Act funds. Mr. and Mrs. Alfond and Mrs. Buffett were in Waterville today for the ceremony.
Governor Baldacci thanked members of the legislature for lending their support to the project.
“Speaker Hannah Pingree, Senate President Libby Mitchell, Senator Lisa Marrache, and Representatives Henry Beck and Pam Trinward all worked across party lines to inform colleagues about the value of Educare not only for Waterville, but for the entire State,” Governor Baldacci said. “Their work has been invaluable to this project.”
Educare Centers are uniquely designed to support the young child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development during critical years of learning. Educational classrooms are organized as “community neighborhoods.” Each neighborhood includes an infant and toddler room (birth to age 3) and preschool room (ages 4-5) creating continuity between and among staff and children as they develop and grow in the program together.
Maine’s Educare Center will join the eight completed centers nationally, all of which gained support from investors such as the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Kellogg Foundation among others.
The Maine Educare Center is scheduled to open in September of 2010.
For more information on Educare, visit www.educarecenters.org.