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The York Jewish Community Center is doubling its early childhood education wing with the hope of crossing some names from its program's ever-growing waiting list.

"There are probably well over 200 children on our wait list, and it just keeps growing over the years," said Heather Miller, director of children's education and development.

The center's Early Childhood Education program offers all-day care for children ages 18 months to 5 years, afternoon programming for kindergarten students and morning care for pre-K students.

Learning: The program "seeks to provide an educational environment that fosters a child's self-image and their curiosity so they can learn about the world and develop their physical, intellectual and social skills," Miller said. "It doesn't focus on specific skills for academia, but rather looks to instill within a child an image of themselves as capable learners."

Whether they're playing with building blocks, painting or playing with other children, the center wants them to be learning through that play, she said.

The early education programs focus on a child's natural curiosity, Miller said.

"The best preparation for the academic world is reinforcing their natural disposition to ask questions and find answers," she said. "We want to do everything we can so that they function as a strong individual and caring person in a child community."

The JCC opened its first nursery school program in 1951 and relocated to its current location on Holly-wood Drive in 1989. In 1998, a second wing was opened and became the early childhood hallway.

"We have one of the oldest nursery programs in York County," Miller said.

Expansion: The nearly 11,000-sqaure-foot expansion will double the amount of classrooms in the wing and also will add a large motor-skills room, Miller said.

The motor-skills room will essentially be a miniature version of the center's adult gym space, Miller said.

"It'll be a great space where they can enjoy physical activities like basketball, obstacle courses and just play games with one another," she said. "It's just another outlet for them to keep moving and for us to help really continue to develop those motor skills."

The additional classrooms and motor-skills room are part of a bigger expansion effort totaling about $8 million.

"Overall the JCC has had a face-lift internally as well as doubling the size of our fitness programs," she said.

Construction at the center began last fall and includes an additional 60 parking spots, expansions to the wellness area and a state-of-the-art cycling studio and a group fitness room.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.

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