Plans have been unveiled for a $4.8million early education centre at Gillieston Heights with provision for an adjoining primary school.
The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has lodged a development application with Maitland City Council for the facility which would be located on Redwood Drive.
If approved, the centre will provide places for 144 children and jobs initially for 27 educators with the provision for more staff once the centre reaches full capacity.
Diocese Head of Communications John Kingsley-Jones said the St Nicholas Early Education Centre will be funded by the Catholic Development Fund with an opening scheduled for late 2020.
Mr Kingsley-Jones said the Gillieston Heights proposal comes in response to growth in demand for the organisation's model of early education.
"This is to build early education centres close to Catholic primary and secondary schools wherever possible," he said.
There are currently six St Nicholas Early Education centres in the diocese - the Chisholm, Cardiff and Lochinvar (which opened in May last year) centres combined cost was $12 million. Centres were already operating at Newcastle West and Singleton.
St Nicholas also operates a centre at Raymond Terrace which it took over late last year and later opened under the St Nicholas banner early this year.
Mr Kingsley-Jones said Gillieston Heights was selected for the next St Nicholas project because of the suburb's healthy residential growth.
"Our research has shown that this area, whilst experiencing current development growth, expects growth of 16 per cent over the next 10 years," he said.
"We also have land available for a future primary school adjoining the early education centre,"
Other sites being targeted by the diocese include Maitland (under construction with 70 places), Branxton (construction started with 124 places) and Muswellbrook (DA lodged for an 80-place centre).
"At Medowie we have a master plan for a site which includes an initial 104 places for early education," Mr Kingsley-Jones said.
"The site will also be the home of Catherine McAuley Catholic College and eventually a primary school."
The Gillieston Heights centre will be a state-of-the-art facility that respects the local environment.
"The centre's outdoor area will also include a very first for St Nicholas," Mr Kingsley-Jones said.
"We are planning a "Bush Kinder" environment that allows not only the children from the centre to use it but also children from other St Nicholas services.
"They can enter an area conducive to free play in a natural setting which is designed to allow exploration and inclusion to bush play, all in a safe and secure area.
"Investing in outdoor areas is something we always do at our centres.
"Our landscape design at Gillieston Heights includes three designated play spaces.
"Each area will have natural play environments that include dry river beds, sandpits, mud kitchens, bike pathways, garden beds, cubby houses, tepees and a basket swing."
Mr Kingsley-Jones added that more than 740 children are enrolled at the various St Nicholas centres with a total of 140 staff.
The diocese will call for expressions of interest forenrolments at the Gillieston Heights centre towards the middle of next year.