A crowd of JAX employees and community leaders gathered at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor on Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new onsite child care center. The center, which will accommodate more than 50 children when fully staffed, is slated to open in 2024 and will be managed by the Down East Family YMCA.
The new child care center will supplement the Beechland Road Early Learning Center in Ellsworth, which opened in 2017 and is also operated by the Down East Family YMCA, also based in Ellsworth. About 25 percent of children enrolled at the Beechland Road Center are children of JAX employees. JAX families will be prioritized for enrollment at the new on-campus center in Bar Harbor, and any remaining spots will be open to the community.
In her remarks, JAX Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer S. Catherine (Katy) Longley emphasized the Lab’s banner achievements in 2022; in addition to the child care groundbreaking, JAX celebrated the arrival of three new commuter buses – easing commutes for many JAX employees – and held a ribbon cutting to mark the opening of its Hemlock Lane workforce housing development.
Longley said that the JAX team and its architectural and engineering partners planned a facility specifically designed for the care and safety of young children, complete with large indoor and outdoor playgrounds, easy access for parents from work areas and three primary classrooms: one for infants, one for toddlers and another for pre-school aged children.
“We are thrilled to work with JAX and we are committed to make this new child care center sing with the voices of children,” said Peter D. Farragher, chief executive officer, Down East Family YMCA.
Todd Landry, Ed.D., director, Office of Child and Family Services, State of Maine DHHS, noted the importance of the JAX project and shared his hope that it might serve as an inspiration for other employer-based centers.
“Twenty years from now, imagine how proud you will be when you can welcome your new employees who said, ‘I started my education here,’” he said in his remarks.
The child care facility will be located on JAX’s Bar Harbor campus, close to campus work areas to ensure parental access, but far from the activity of the JAX facility. The setting and proximity of the center to Acadia National Park will provide children and staff abundant access and exposure to the natural world.
JAX Assistant Professor Beth Dumont, Ph.D., a mother of three, spoke about challenges that working parents face when it comes to child care. “While there’s no clear solution to solving this issue at the national scale, we can make progress locally. I am really grateful and proud to work at an organization that has taken steps to addressing the child care shortage locally here in Bar Harbor,” she said. “These investments are not trivial, but they will earn significant returns. Child care gives us parents the ability to raise the next generation of citizens, of problem-solvers, of caretakers…while simultaneously allowing us to make substantive contributions to JAX’s mission.”
Construction on the 6,800 square-foot building is slated to begin within the next four to six weeks.
“This center is a major investment,” Longley said. “You can look at it in many ways, but I view this project as an investment into our people today and an investment in our future.”