Bendigo could lose three kindergartens by 2027 under proposed infrastructure strategy

Bendigo could lose three kindergartens by 2027 under proposed infrastructure strategy

by Freya Lucas

February 23, 2022

The future of three kindergartens in the regional Victorian hub of Bendigo is in doubt after the City of Bendigo’s proposed Early Years Infrastructure Strategy was released to the public, showing that the services could be closed by 2027 with their places redistributed to help meet demand in other areas of Bendigo.

 

Open for community feedback until March 23 2022, the draft strategy has been released to support decision making as council considers future early years infrastructure projects. Bendigo Preschool, Eaglehawk Kindergarten and White Hills Kindergarten would all close by 2027 should the plan go ahead in its present state.

 

Some kindergartens, however, would be better off under the plan, which outlines expansions for Spring Gully Kindergarten by 2025 and Epsom Kindergarten by 2026 while a new Marong Kindergarten and Community Hub would be built by 2024.

 

Speaking with local news source Bendigo Advertiser, City of Greater Bendigo Community Wellbeing Manager Richie Evans said most of the buildings the city owns or manages for early years services are more than 35 years old and some are simply no longer suitable to run a contemporary service from.

 

He cited White Hills as an example, saying “we know that regional data shows the need to maintain services in that region, but we haven’t got space at White Hills to expand, so (we) are looking to take the opportunity to expand Epsom.” 

 

For Bendigo Preschool, he continued, the space is there, but there is a significant oversupply of places, with more vacancies than there are children to fill them. 

 

“It’s our oldest site and the (closure) recommendation is based around the fact that it doesn’t meet contemporary standards,” he added, acknowledging that talk of closing services “can be emotional” for those affected.  

 

The proposed changes, he continued, are about better utilisation for children coming into Bendigo, given the Council’s position that “the city is growing and will keep growing”. 

 

When asked what “fit-for-contemporary purpose” services would look like, Mr Evans said important points of consideration included: 

 

  • space for 66 children
  • two playrooms 
  • sufficient indoor and outdoor space
  • access for those with additional needs
  • suitable staff amenities and adequate storage.

 

Mr Evans said a fit-for-contemporary purpose service would hold 66 student places and include two playrooms, indoor and outdoor playspaces, have access for people of all abilities as well as suitable staff amenities and storage space.

 

“We prefer (sites) to be co-located with other services such as maternal child health or allied health and have good proximity to activity centres such as being 10 minutes from urban Bendigo or 20 minutes from rural Bendigo,” he added.

 

The areas in Greater Bendigo that require more kindergarten places include the zone covering Marong, Lockwood, Ravenswood, Mandurang, Sedgwick, Emu Creek, Axe Creek, and the zone covering Eppalock, Eaglehawk, California Gully, Sailors Gully, Eaglehawk North and Jackass Flat, he added. 

 

Decisions about where to expand are driven by data, and the current draft strategy represents almost two years of work by the Council to optimise solutions. 

 

“Now we want to hear what the community says. We have left it open quite a while. People can (give feedback) until 23 March,” Mr Evans told the paper. 

 

Feedback can be given through the City’s Let’s Talk webpage. All feedback received by the city will be considered and any changes will be incorporated into the final early years infrastructure strategy before it is presented to council for adoption.

 

To read the original coverage of this story, please see here.

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