HAVERHILL — Starting in January, the Haverhill YMCA will become part of the Northern Essex Community College family.

The Y is joining forces with the college not to provide health and fitness programs, but instead early education programs for infants, toddlers, preschool students and pre-kindergartners.

The YMCA plans to open a child care center in the college's sports and fitness center on the Haverhill campus, where the the Little Sprouts organization operated a child care program for the past 25 years.

NECC officials said Little Sprouts decided to consolidate its NECC program with its Amesbury location. That happened when Little Sprouts' contract with the college expired and NECC decided not to renew it.

Little Sprouts will, however, continue to provide child care at its other area locations after the organization closes its NECC location Sept. 11.

The college has been exploring an expanded partnership with the YMCA, according to Michael McCarthy, NECC's vice president of administration.

"It made sense to take the first step by contracting with the YMCA, a longstanding resource for child care in the Haverhill community," he said.

The program that the YMCA will launch in January at the college will operate weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Priority will be given to the families of NECC faculty and staff, although families from elsewhere in the community  are welcome, McCarthy said.

As part of the program, the YMCA will also offer learning and practicum opportunities for students in NECC's Early Childhood Education Program.

“We’ve been very happy with the quality care Little Sprouts has given the children of our faculty, staff and students, as well as community families,” McCarthy said, "and we want to continue that tradition of excellence with the YMCA."

The YMCA of the North Shore operates child care centers at eight locations throughout the region.

“We are thrilled to move forward in partnership with Northern Essex to begin a new collaborative YMCA early learning experience at the college," said Tracy Fuller, executive director of the Haverhill and Plaistow Community YMCA. "This will provide essential child care to faculty and staff, while also offering a space for students studying early education to gain practical experience."

More information about child care at the YMCA Early Education Center at Northern Essex is available from Tracy Fuller at fullert@northshoreymca.org.

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