By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
The CYO of Mercer County celebrated the reopening of its nationally accredited preschool Sept. 11 after 16 months of renovation. The facility is housed in Ewing Township’s Hollowbrook Community Center.
The township-owned building, which also houses a library, a Meals on Wheels and other offices, closed for renovations in May 2016 after asbestos was discovered, said Thomas G. Mladenetz, Mercer County CYO executive director.
“They expected to open again in about six months, but complications arose with contractors, and the expected six months stretched to 16 months, causing the CYO to lose two summers’ worth of programming,” he said. “The silver lining in this was that the center was eligible for federal community development block grants.”
The extra funds meant Ewing Township could make more extensive improvements on the building. Rather than simply undergoing asbestos abatement, the center received a new roof, ceilings, lights, flooring and windows.
“Since it had been closed for so long, certification from the state licensing people was necessary,” Mladenetz said. “The building received its certificate of occupancy last week, and we are state licensed and NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) approved. It’s like a gold seal.”
The Hollowbrook Community Center, located in a quiet neighborhood near The College of New Jersey, had been in existence for about 30 years. Once known as the Mercer Child Care Center, the Mercer County CYO took over the first floor of the facility about 10 years ago.
“It has a long tradition of service,” Mladenetz explained. “Some parents had gone there and now send their children. For many of the children that live in the area, it is like going home.”
The preschool currently cares for 20 children ages 2-1/2 to 5 in two classes. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the young charges receive breakfast, lunch and a snack. Members of the staff include two teachers, two aides, an educational director and an administrative director.
The preschool’s creative curriculum includes reading, science and math. “It leaves them well-prepared for kindergarten,” Mladenetz said.
The CYO is eager to reinstitute a summer camp program designed for children up to age 10 in 2018, and Mladenetz predicts a healthy enrollment. Proposed outdoor improvements include the upgrade of the center’s kiddie pool to a splash pad with fountains of water.