YORK — York County Head Start-Preschool Learning Academy of York’s (PLAY) has stayed on the forefront of current practices, but there’s only so much that can be done on the downtown location’s campus, said PLAY-Downtown Center Director Jenn Whitted.

Preschool Learning Academy of York’s downtown location is housed by what was once the Legion building in York, west of North Lincoln Avenue. It has occupied that space for over a decade.

“It’s been working,” Whitted said. “But now we have a grant to make things more learning-friendly.”

Preschool Learning Academy of York’s downtown location has been awarded an Office of Head Start (OHS) Service Duration grant, a competitive grant with a pool of $294 million.

“Extended Duration” refers to increasing the hours of services that Head Start offers individual children and their families, ultimately increasing potential learning and development “by providing more hours of high-quality learning experiences” said the National Head Start Association (NHSA). Under Extended Duration each Head Start preschool center-based location is to provide at least 1,020 annual hours of enrichment per spot.

In order to fully adhere to grant standards, Whitted said an additional classroom and about 10 new PLAY-Downtown jobs will be created. Each classroom is to have four adults. The jobs also include additional necessary support employees, such as food service workers.

“We’re going with smaller classes and more individualized attention,” Whitted said. “We’re finding that’s important to meet the social and emotional needs of children. The renovation makes that possible.”

While Whitted said she was discouraged to disclose the amount awarded for PLAY-Downtown improvements, she explained that PLAY-Downtown’s share of their grant will pay to vastly improve campus. Among the physical elements improved are a new, more secure, playground fence; an additional bathroom and the added classroom.

Although adding a fourth classroom will decrease class sizes, the total number of children served will remain the same at 51 children. York County Head Start-PLAY’s York Elementary School location serves 70 preschool-aged children.

York County Head Start-PLAY is a part of the Children Services Department of Blue Valley Community Action. Grant-funded downtown campus improvements are expected to be completed in August.

The OHS has expected to award funds in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the Republic of Palau, according to the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC).

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