A hands-on discovery center and an interior designed with the younger set in mind are hallmarks of the Piedmont Child Care Center's new facility on Route 50 across from Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville.

The new building will allow the nonprofit child care center, established in Upperville in 1984, to expand its service to include 72 children--more than double the number served in the old facility, a rented space in Trinity's parish hall.

The center, which draws most of its clients from Loudoun and Fauquier counties, also attracts children from Clarke, Warren, Fairfax and Frederick counties. Throughout much of the 1990s, the center typically had a waiting list of 30 to 40 children, according to founding director Alice Fitch.

In recent years, commuters from the Fairfax communities of Chantilly, Herndon and Centreville have called the center seeking child care, Fitch said. One Fairfax parent whose child is enrolled at the center is an accountant for a horse farm in Upperville. Another is a secretary for an investment firm in Middleburg. A couple of others teach in counties to the west.

The east-to-west commute "is a new trend," Fitch said. "It's a new demographic."

The new center has space to accommodate a broader range of ages, including a room for as many as eight children from 6 weeks to 15 months old and a new classroom for 10 children ranging in age from 15 months to 2 years.

"In Upperville, there has been no infant care, so when we built our new facility we decided we were going to provide infant and pre-toddler care as well," said Fitch, who has a master's degree in family and human development from Utah State University in Logan and a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. "We've always had a pretty extensive waiting list, and hopefully the new unit will alleviate some of that, too."

In addition, the new Piedmont Child Care Center will serve 15 children ages 5 to 12 who require care before or after school.

Fitch said she expects to expand the number of employees at the center from the current staff of six teachers, assistants, aides and floaters to as many as 16 staff members. As part of their benefits package, employees are being offered the opportunity to take a course leading to the child development associate's degree.

Parents and children entering the new building, which is set on a wooded nine acres just off Route 50, first will come across a specially designed "transitional space"--a hands-on discovery area that Fitch said is meant to help ease the angst many children feel upon separating from a parent or guardian for the day.

The center also features a reading nook, an all-purpose room for indoor play on rainy days, playgrounds for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and an area for outdoor exploring.

CAPTION: In its new building on Route 50, Piedmont will more than double its capacity, to 72 children.

CAPTION: Eli Lewis, 3, plays alongside his father, Andy, at an open house Saturday for the nonprofit Piedmont Child Care Center's new facility in Upperville.