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Passionate: Arrowtown Playcentre boss Jane Foster, left, and executive officer Gerdi Schumann, who are marking 32 and 20 years with the community-owned early childhood education centre, respectively

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

Ten years to the day of welcoming their first charges, the Arrowtown Preschool team’s looking to expand.

The Cotter Avenue site marked its milestone birthday on Tuesday, having been built to try to take some of the pressure from its wait list when it had a single site, still in operation, at Durham Street.

At the time, that wait list sat at 80, but about three years ago the demand for children aged between 2 and 5 “just dropped” – boss Jane Foster says that’s because a lot of people left Arrowtown, which “outpriced itself”.

However, demand for slots for under-2s was still there.

The incorporated society, which is community-owned, managed to double capacity at the Cotter Ave centre, from four to eight toddlers, in recent years which helped, but that wait list has bounced back.

There are now about 70 children listed on it and some parents registering for a place as soon as they find out they’re expecting a baby.

And, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, they’re heartened the demand will still exist.

Foster: “The unreal thing, in the last couple of weeks I’ve had inquiries from overseas, from expats moving back from [for example] Singapore.

“They’re looking ahead.”

Throughout lockdown there’s only one child they’ve lost – but only for six months.

Plans for the preschool extension, which will include additions to enable restful sleep for the charges – simultaneously extending the play areas – a new whanau/meeting room and administration area, are with the Ministry of Education waiting for the stamp of approval before they can get quotes to build.

However, the playcentre doesn’t get funding for the building work so will need to raise the money itself, a daunting task in light of the current economic climate.

A Givealittle page has been set up and they’re also hopeful they might be able to secure a Central Lakes Trust grant to help them on the way.

“We started organising all of this this year and then, of course, everything fell over,” Foster says.

The flip side, though, is Covid-19’s delayed the project, which means when it does come to fruition it will provide building work at a time when other projects may have already been completed.

Foster, who’s celebrating her 32nd anniversary with the playcentre, says she’s now in charge of the second generation children of children she taught.

She’s in good company.

Gerdi Schumann, the playcentre’s executive officer, originally from Germany, has 20 years under her belt.

When asked what keeps them going, they say it’s their teachers, and their enthusiasm, and the overarching desire to do the best they can for the children.

“Those are the things that keep me juiced,” Foster says.

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz