The new YMCA Early Learning Center set to open at Central Montco Technical High School Sept. 9 is a clear “win-win partnership,” says YMCA spokesman Emily Weiser. A “no brainer,” adds CMTHS Director Seth Schram.

ELC open houses are scheduled to continue on Aug. 14 and 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at CMTHS’s Plymouth Meeting campus, 821 Plymouth Road (adjacent to intersection of Johnson Highway and New Hope Street). For tours on other dates, email childcarehelpdesk@philaymca.org. Registration began Aug. 1 and is ongoing at 215-628-9950 (ext. 1574) or eweiser@philaymca.org.

The new year-round center will operate as a licensed preschool for three to five-year-olds. Regular classes will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m., but children may be dropped off as early as 7 a.m. and picked up as late as 6 p.m. The Y will provide a daily snack, but students must bring their own lunches.

Weekly tuition is $215 for five days, $172 for three days and $150 for two days, regardless of drop-off or pick-up times. Additional enrollees from the same household will receive a 10 per cent discount. The program will also accept students whose families receive third-party funding for childcare. Information about financial assistance is available at 215-628-9950 (ext. 1506). All students will receive free YMCA memberships.

The center will not open on major holidays or dates that CMTHS is closed.

According to Weiser, the new facility will occupy rented space in CMTHS. All YMCA Early Learning Centers are licensed and regulated by the Department of Human Services and staffed by fully-credentialed head teachers.

“This is a brand-new collaboration, and we’re very excited about it because there’s currently no Y presence in that area,” says Weiser, the Ambler YMCA-based advanced child care director for Greater Philadelphia YMCA. “Seth came to us with the idea, and things just took off from there. I’m a member of the (CMTHS) local advisory board, so I’m familiar with the school’s programs, and they’re all first class.”

She points specifically to CMTHS’s existing early childhood education program for high school students interested in pursuing a career in the specialty. Those students typically attend home schools in the Colonial, Norristown and Upper Merion Area School Districts.

“At the Y, we’ve provided mentoring and hiring opportunities for those students, and we have, maybe, four or five of them on our staff right now,” Weiser says. “But to get their CDA (Child Development Associate certificate), the students need field experience in a (state-approved early childhood center), so this new collaboration enhances the Central Montco program by making that possible (on the CMTHS campus).”

In short, CDA status is earned after successful completion of an assessment process overseen by the Council for Professional Recognition. The latter is a national organization that supports professional development in early education and childcare.

Schram says the Y’s Early Learning Center will also benefit the school’s new Teacher Academy program, designed to give high school students interested in a career in education a leg up prior to college by providing both in-class and field experience in local pre-K, elementary and secondary schools.

“We’re very excited about the Teacher Academy,” the CMTHS director says. “We’ve hired an incredible director, someone with awesome credentials and really great ideas for running the program. The students will spend 40 per cent of their time in the classroom (at CMTHS) and 60 per cent of their time in the field. So, having all of these programs right here on-site – the Teacher Academy, the Y’s new Early Learning Center and our own early childhood education program – is terrific for everyone involved.

“The Y’s Early Learning Center services the community because it fills a growing need. It services the high school students enrolled in the Teacher Academy because it gives them one more setting they can rotate into to meet their requirements for field experience. And for someone interested in a career in education, that puts them way ahead of the game. We have an articulation agreement with Montgomery County Community College that will give our students up to nine credits once they’ve completed the program here.”

Weiser says the YMCA Early learning Center at CMTHS will use The Creative Curriculum “with the philosophy that young children learn best by doing.”

“The Creative Curriculum allows children to remain our central focus while developing four key areas – social emotional, physical, cognitive and language.”

The Y is currently hiring “before and after-school enrichment mentors…with at least two years’ experience working with children” for the 7-9 a.m. and 2:30-6 p.m. child-care sessions at the center. Additional information about those positions is available at 215-628-9950 (ext. 1574).

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