To help meet the ongoing challenges regarding the availability and affordability of childcare, Colby has opened a new childcare facility on campus for faculty and staff with young children.
The Happy Days Childcare and Learning Center at Colby College opened in September in the completely transformed Millett House at the base of Mayflower Hill. With openings for 38 children ranging from six weeks to five years old, the center adds critically needed childcare capacity in the most in-demand age range into the Central Maine area.
The center is run by Happy Days Childcare and Learning Center, an accredited, locally owned facility also operating in nearby Winslow. The owners, Jennifer Stevens and Rae Ann Lajoie, oversee operations at the Colby facility, including the hiring and training of an onsite manager and the childcare professionals who care for and teach the children.
“The College has been searching for ways to provide childcare for employees for years, but available options didn’t pan out or costs were prohibitive,” said Margaret McFadden, provost and dean of faculty. But during the Covid-19 crisis, she said, “needs of parents became especially visible. We decided this was the year to figure out how to get this done in a way that actually met the demonstrated need of our community for infant and toddler care.”
Parents report great satisfaction with the center. “We are very excited about the new childcare center at Colby,” said Elizabeth McGrath, associate professor of astronomy and physics and mother of a toddler. “Having met the staff and seeing them interact with our little one, I could not be more confident that they will provide a caring, nurturing, and educational environment during this important developmental time for our child.” She added that not only will it be incredibly convenient, but it has put her mind at ease knowing that the teachers and staff, who are all fully vaccinated, will be taking Covid-19 precautions seriously in order to help protect all the children there.
An Old House With A New Job
While Colby students will not work at the center as staff, they will have opportunities to work there as student scholars, particularly in the areas of educational practicums and psychology, for example.
The Millett House, a classic New England house at the southern edge of campus, has been entirely refurbished. The bright and colorful center includes three classrooms/play spaces, including two in the adjoining “barn;” onsite dining services providing nutritious meals; space for nursing mothers; administrative offices; two outdoor playgrounds; and an improved parking area for staff and for parents’ drop-off and pick-up. Upgrades to the house’s electric, plumbing, heating, and other systems also took place.
The College acquired the Millett House in 1965 with funds from a gift made by the Class of 1940 at its 25th reunion. On June 4, 1966, the house was dedicated to Ellsworth “Bill” Millett, Class of 1925, who retired in 1966 following nearly four decades of service to the College. Millett first worked as a hockey coach and is credited with making hockey a major sport at Colby; later, he became alumni secretary. He was beloved by generations of students who kept in touch with him for years following their graduation.
The proximity of the Millett House to campus will be a boon for working parents. Happy Days at Colby will work in tandem with the College’s schedule and provide extended hours such as during major events and faculty meetings. “Having that flexibility and that relationship to make sure that we’ve got childcare to really meet the specific needs of the College is key,” said Brian Clark, vice president for planning.
In addition to helping families juggle the challenges of childcare, the center will help the College recruit and retain the most talented faculty and staff, Clark said.
“We’re very excited to start offering these services in this location,” he said. “It’s a great new part of the College, and the center represents our values, which are rooted in community.”
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