SPRINGFIELD TWP. — Nearly two decades ago, a mother and daughter opened a Montessori school focused on early childhood education because they wanted to make a difference in young lives, but that dream fell short after a tragic accident.
Five years later, the York Jewish Community Center is taking the reins thanks to a state grant that will allow the organization to renovate the space and reopen a new early childhood learning center.
This would be in addition to its main campus at 2000 Hollywood Drive in York Township.
Nancy Rosenbaum-Hardy co-owned TLC Montessori, in Springfield Township, with her mother Jan Rosenbaum, and also served as program facilitator.
She and her 15-year-old son Preston died of carbon monoxide toxicity in July 2014, caused by a car left running in their garage.
The family kept the school open for about a year, after which it was vacant until the JCC acquired the building in 2017.
State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill recently announced a $1 million state grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program that would cover the costs of renovations now under way at the facility. The funds would also go toward a playground at the facility.
One of five awarded this year in York County, the grants are designated for regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.
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The JCC said construction is expected to wrap up at the end of September, with the center opening by mid-October.
It would be an expansion of the JCC’s early childhood program, which began in 1993 and saw two earlier expansions in 1997 and 2015 — and part of a long tradition, as the JCC also started the county’s oldest preschool program in 1951.
The new location will serve more than 100 children ranging in age from 18 months to 5 years old.
Though Rosenbaum-Hardy’s family had hoped to continue what she built, they were not childhood educators, and ultimately, “it wasn’t the right fit,” said Heather Miller, director of children’s education and development for the JCC.
“It was very horrific for the community,” Miller said. “We just hope that we will be able to instill some of those memories there.”
She said she could feel the history as she walked through the building — which has been a school since 1910 — and wants to honor that tradition.
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York JCC President and CEO Dani Sessler said the location will be known as the Gan Rimon Campus, named for the Hebrew words for kindergarten and pomegranate.
In addition to being a religious symbol, the pomegranate’s many se are a symbol for prosperity and enrichment, “and that’s connected to education,” he said.
The school will also serve a need for early childhood education.
“When that facility closed… families were scrambling,” Phillips-Hill said. “When you look at early childhood education opportunities, much of it is concentrated in the urban core and immediate suburbs.”