The Concerned Parents of St Columba Uniting Church Preschool have rallied to save the Figtree facility from closing its doors after almost 50 years serving the community.
The imminent threat of closure has angered the group, including parent Victoria James, who is ‘’disappointed’’ at the church for taking the ‘’easy way out’’ in choosing to sell the land which houses the community run preschool.
Keiraview Uniting Church plans to use the proceeds of the sale to build a new multi-million-dollar community church hall at its premises in Fisher Street, West Wollongong.
“They’ve got an ageing congregation down there and I guess from a lot of parents perspective you would think that the church would want to make their mission about the youth and about potentially being able to grow their congregation...I mean why not embrace the preschool and what it has to offer for the community,’’ Mrs James said.
We are not willing to sit by and wait for our preschool to be closed, we want to save it for our children and our community.- The Concerned Parents of St Columba Uniting Church Preschool
Under conditions of the sale St Columba Uniting Church Preschool will continue to run from the building until December 2018.
But parents fear they will be left ‘’scrambling ‘’ to get their children on waiting lists for other centres in 2019 and beyond.
More than 70 families every year rely on the preschool on Bellevue Rd, which has been operating in Figtree for 46 years and is filled to capacity with enrolments in 2018.
‘’I love the centre and don’t want it to close,’’ Mrs James said.
‘’It would be nice if they did an about face and decide that the preschool is a vital part of the community and not sell.
‘’What other avenues have they looked at. They’ve got a lot of land down at Fisher St. Perhaps they should sell some of that to save the preschool.
‘’I’m not sure that they have absolutely exhausted all options available to them. I think this is just an easy way out. I’m very disappointed with the church.’’
The group fear if a suitable relocation site cannot be found, ‘’the preschool will be closed; staff will lose their jobs, parents will lose care providers for their children, children will lose a safe place where they belong, and the community will lose a valuable resource’’.
‘’We are not willing to sit by and wait for our preschool to be closed, we want to save it for our children and our community.’’
I think this is just an easy way out. I’m very disappointed with the church.- Victoria James
A Uniting spokesperson said it was committed ‘’to the continuing operation of this preschool in the local government area and is working with the Keiraview Uniting Church council to source an alternate venue to keep it operating beyond December 2018’’.
Rod Nadwie-Smith, the head of Uniting Early Learning, will visit St Columba Uniting Church Preschool on August 29.
‘’Uniting and the St Columba Uniting Preschool management remain committed to continuing to communicate with preschool families on this matter in the longer term,’’ he said.