Y’s Blue Hill childcare program to close



BLUE HILL — The YMCA is closing its child care center here, leaving frustrated families two weeks to find other child care for children ranging in age from infancy to Pre-K.

Parents were sent a letter Aug. 29 informing them that the Blue Hill Child Care Program would have its last day on Friday, Sept. 13. There are 25 children from infants to preschoolers enrolled.

“It’s a financial decision,” Peter Farragher, chief executive officer of the Down East Family YMCA, said Thursday, Aug. 29. “The childcare center was going to run a financial deficit.”

Parents were offered priority for any openings at the YMCA’s Ellsworth centers.

The Y operates two early childcare centers in Ellsworth in addition to the one in Blue Hill as well as a summer camp in Eastbrook.

Parents of children attending the Blue Hill location have expressed frustration with the two-week notice and what they say was a lack of communication from the YMCA prior to the closure announcement.

Barbara Blake of Brooksville has a 3-year-old daughter at the Blue Hill Y.

“The thing that irritates me most about this closing is they never reached out to us,” Blake said.

Blake said she doesn’t remember seeing an advertisement aimed at boosting fall enrollment at the Blue Hill program.

Blake has been able to find another child care provider but said she feels for those trying to find care for babies.

Infant care can be challenging to find in the area, in part because of the low staffing ratios required.

“If she was a newborn or 2 and under, I don’t think I’d have daycare set up,” Blake said.

Emmy Peasley, also of Brooksville, is another frustrated parent.

The single mother works 12-hour shifts — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — for Northern Light Medical Transport.

“I feel like the YMCA didn’t even try,” Peasley said. “They didn’t try to adjust prices. They didn’t even contact us at all other than the letter. We had no idea it was coming.”

Peasley said she has found care for her daughter, Reagan, who is 20 months old, at a home day care in Penobscot. That’s a farther drive and out of the way of Peasley’s commute to Ellsworth. Reagan’s grandmother has been picking her up in the afternoons but will have to start dropping her off in the mornings also, Peasley said.

For the Y’s part, Farragher said, “we were hoping to see a bump up in fall enrollment and we didn’t.”

If the Y didn’t close the program now, the closure would be happening in November or December or January, he said. “We had to make that terrible decision to close.”

The financial pressures on the program started when most area schools began offering a full-day pre-K program, Farragher said.

The Y supports pre-K in the schools, he said, and tried to modify its offerings to adapt to having fewer pre-K-age students enrolled in the program but the changes haven’t been enough.

Another issue is that “a high percentage of the families” who use the child care center in Blue Hill only do so part time, Farragher said. “There are 25 kids enrolled and a number of them are part-time. It’s difficult to staff around the part-time.”

“We tried to be frugal,” Farragher said. “But you can’t reduce your expenses because of best practices for staff ratios.”

Among the 25 children, there are five babies enrolled in the program, 11 toddlers and the nine remaining are preschoolers.

Farragher said the Y has offered the Blue Hill staff positions in Ellsworth and a few have accepted the jobs.

Parents also were offered priority consideration for any openings at the Y’s Ellsworth child care programs.

“Child care is a tricky business,” Farragher said. “We’re trying to do our best.”

Meanwhile, the YMCA is considering options for the space that the child care center will be leaving in Blue Hill.

Farragher said the space might be converted into a rec center for all ages.

“That would complement the new facility going in,” Farragher said, referring to the Lawrence family’s construction of a 13,000-square-foot indoor fitness facility with competition pool.

 

Correction:

An earlier version of this article stated an incorrect number of children enrolled in the Y’s Blue Hill Childcare program. There are 25 enrolled.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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