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Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 24, 2014
‘High-quality’ early childhood facility needs home to kick-start planning
Daycare may open in Penobscot

by Anne Berleant

With the imminent closing of Castine Community Child Development Center, known as Otter House, an ad hoc citizen group is still scrambling to find a home for a new facility planned to have a wider reach than Otter House offered.

“We have families who need care in one more month and the clock is ticking,” said Nancy Sayre, addressing the Castine Community and Economic Development Committee on July 21. “Families are already planning other arrangements.”

In support, the CEDC approved a new subcommittee to tackle the issue, naming Sayre, Gil Tenney, Sue Macdonald and CEDC member Tony Politano as members.

“It is an essential ingredient in a community effort,” said CEDC Chairman Rick Armstrong.

While projections for fall enrollment at Otter House were four children, Sayre said she had identified “close to 20 in need of care that had elected not to go to Otter House and were finding other care.”

Sayre has said she is only interested in creating a “high-quality” center focused on early childhood learning and development, and that without a dedicated space, planning cannot move forward. A proposal to use vacant basement space at the Castine Community Health Center has not yet been reviewed by the hospital corporation board, she added.

A short-term fix was made public by CEDC member Jane Irving, who shared the proposal of an in-home facility by Penobscot resident Mandy Basile that is currently undergoing the state licensing process.

“I applaud Mandy. She’s doing what women have always done,” said Sayre, “but we need something permanent, something that attracts families…[a] stable, quality [center] that’s backed by a community.”

In her proposal, Basile stated, “After investigating childcare options it became clear to me I was the best candidate not only for care for my child but to provide quality in-home childcare to other parents in need.”

State licensing requirements for in-home daycare allow one provider, working alone, to care for four infants and toddlers; or three infants and toddlers, three preschoolers and two school-age children; or eight preschool children and two school-age children. The state defines an infant as 6 weeks to 12 months old, a toddler as 13 to 30 months, a preschooler as 2.5 to not-yet-school-age 5, and school age as 5 to 13. Basile has one toddler of her own and two school-age children.

“My goal is to be open and ready by September 2,” Basile said in a follow-up telephone call. She plans to accept four children during the day, with after-school slots available, and would prefer to accept children 18 months and older.

“The fix for our short-term problem is actually happening outside of Castine,” Politano observed. “We are basically shifting Otter House to Mandy House.”