PROVINCETOWN — The Provincetown Schools will open a third infant-toddler room later this summer at its Early Learning Center — thanks, at least in part, to $362,801 in federal American Rescue Plan Act money being allocated now by Barnstable County officials.
The funds supplement $25,000 from the finance committee’s reserve fund to retrofit the room and $100,000 from the Early Learning Center’s revolving fund.
Last August, the Barnstable County Commissioners and Assembly of Delegates agreed to designate $5 million in ARPA funds for small- and medium-sized grants. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations as well as non-county local government entities such as school districts were eligible to apply.
After reviewing 122 letters of interest, county officials invited 40 groups to submit grant applications. The total funding requested by those who applied was $14 million. County officials ultimately split the $5 million available among 20 winners, with several organizations receiving part of what they requested.
The grant to Provincetown’s Early Learning Center was the full amount the district had requested, according to the grant and school choice manager, Tessa Bry Taylor.
Cape-wide, early education and child-care programs received the largest portion of the $5 million pot, at $1.1 million. That came as no surprise to Gerry Goyette, Provincetown’s school superintendent. “There is an abundant need for child care across the communities on the Cape,” he said.
Currently, 20 children are enrolled in the center’s infant and toddler program, which serves children ages eight months to 36 months, and there is a substantial waiting list. “About 30 families are looking for immediate care, and that’s why we are opening a new room,” said Bry Taylor.
In addition to covering the cost of some refurbishment of the early learning center space — better lighting, an upgrade to the heating and air conditioning systems, and a much-needed replacement of both the sub-base and surface of the playground behind its facility in the Veterans Memorial Community Center — the grant will help pay the salaries of one teacher in the infant and toddler program and assistant teachers in the preschool and pre-kindergarten programs for three- and four-year-olds.
Programs at the center run from infant care through pre-kindergarten. The kindergarten, which was also located at the community center, is moving to the main school campus on Winslow Street this fall to make room for the expansion of the infant and toddler program.
Most of the refurbishing of the early learning center should be done this summer. The playground work, however, will have to wait until early fall. “It’s very difficult to get contractors down to Provincetown in the middle of the summer,” said Bry Taylor. The playground structures won’t need to be moved while the work is done, so the job will probably be completed in one to two weeks.
The early learning center serves families from all four towns on the Outer Cape, and children from even farther away are sometimes enrolled, generally because a parent works nearby. Children of Provincetown residents attend the programs free of charge. Eastham, Truro, and Wellfleet have voucher programs to offset tuition costs.
“The vast majority of our families are utilizing a voucher as opposed to paying out of pocket,” Bry Taylor said. The voucher program, she said, “has been a lifesaver for many families who otherwise would absolutely not be able to afford child care or early learning.”
Other ARPA allotments to support child care and early education programs went to the YMCA of Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Council of Churches, and Cape Cod Children’s Place.
Grant award recipients fell into a handful of other categories: food security, public health, housing, community services, and broadband.
The largest grant related to food security went to the Family Pantry of Cape Cod for its food program. It was awarded $300,000 to pay for supplies for distribution.
“We serve between 600 and 625 families each week,” said Executive Director Christine Menard in an email. “That’s up 33 percent over last year.”
The Family Pantry gets its food from the Boston Food Bank. It must pay for some of it, but the rest is provided through the Mass. Emergency Food Assistance Program and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some of the produce it distributes comes from a garden at the pantry’s Harwich facility. “We grow about 5,000 pounds a season,” Menard said. That’s “nice but not enough to cover what we need.”
The Family Pantry also runs a “Healthy Meals in Motion” mobile pantry, partnering with councils on aging in Brewster, Dennis, Chatham, Eastham, Orleans, and Provincetown. The mobile pantry also stops at the Provincetown school and Cape Cod Children’s Place in Eastham.
The organization offers a satellite pantry at Cape Cod Community College for students, staff, and those at the child-care center.
There is hunger on Cape Cod. “We have never seen this level of demand in the history of the pantry,” Menard said.