St Mary’s Community Preschool reopens offsite following flood damage
The children and families utilising St Mary’s Community Preschool in the New South Wales regional town of Casino have been able to return to care and learning in a new venue three weeks after the preschool closed because of damage from recent flooding.
Rainfall of over half a metre in 24 hours left the preschool with considerable damage, needing a complete indoor refit and playground repairs. In the weeks since the closure, St Mary’s Director and Early Childhood Teacher Melissa Leeson and Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Service General Manager Karen McDermott worked closely to submit a temporary relocation application and to help reopen St Mary’s in a room at Jumbunna.
12 children from St Mary’s will receive education and care in the Jumbunna space which has licence to operate until June.
In speaking with the New South Wales Department of Education both services acknowledged that the collaboration came from a shared commitment to supporting families to have consistency and to give children a safe place to continue to learn and play during the challenging post flood period.
Ms Leeson said that the strength of the long-standing relationship between St Mary’s and Jumbunna enabled a smooth transition to both operating from the one site, supporting their continued focus on the needs of children and families.
“We’ve felt so welcome by the Jumbunna team. We’re really grateful that this was able to happen,” she said.
Jumbunna is a member of the Northern Rivers Preschool Alliance which consists of 42 state-funded preschools on the Far North Coast of NSW. Throughout the floods, the Alliance has fiercely advocated for services, educators, children and families, and been a vital source of strength and advice for services across the region.
Being part of the Alliance was an enormous support, Ms Leeson said, given that she had never experienced a flood in the service previously. While it has been a very challenging experience, she has been touched by the generosity of the community.
“When we are confronted with challenging times, people take action to support each other and empower children to witness first-hand the power of kindness.”
A Go Fund Me campaign has been established for members of the Northern Rivers Preschool Alliance, which can be accessed here.
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