Relief for childcare crisis on the way

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Pressure will ease on beleaguered Arrowtown parents when a much-needed new preschool opens in May. 

The two-year waiting list at long-running Arrowtown Community Preschool is expected to be slashed when its flash sister facility, the Arrowtown Early Learning Centre, is completed. 

The new centre, on Cotter Avenue, became a reality after a group of local mums and dads took on the Ministry of Education last year. 

The MoE initially refused a $700,000 grant last February but the determined Arrowtowners helped ensure the money was approved in the next funding round. 

Now the existing facility on Durham Street can concentrate on providing morning and afternoon care for three- to five-year-olds, while the new centre caters for mixed ages for “school-day” hours, says Jane Foster, boss of both preschools. 

“We couldn’t cater for two-year-olds [at Durham St] because we didn’t have the space.” 

The average acceptance age at Durham St has been three years, nine months until just recently, with the acceptance of a couple of kids aged two years, 11 months. 

“We haven’t had that for years,” Foster says. 

“The new centre’s already taken the heat off.” 

The Durham St facility takes 60 toddlers each day and the new centre will initially accommodate 25 between 9am-3.30pm, with the view to increasing its roll when another teacher arrives later this year. 

“The parents were getting desperate,” Foster says. 

“A lot of them don’t have the support of extended family for a break, and there are a lot of them who need to work. 

“The new centre, with its school-day hours, will give them more opportunities and will keep them in the community rather than parents having to travel to Queenstown [for care].” 

The two preschools will be managed by a governance committee and Foster, who’ll oversee the transition. Both centres will have parent committees to help with decision-making. 

Aside from the Government money, plus another $30,000 MoE establishment grant, there’s a $30,000 shortfall which will need to be raised in the community.