St Mary's Community Preschool

Just three weeks after closing due to flood damage, St Mary’s Community Preschool in Casino, NSW, has reopened offsite thanks to the generosity of local services and the community.

Image: St Mary’s Community Preschool’s temporary room at Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Service

Like many services in Northern NSW, St Mary’s Community Preschool was forced to close in early March when it was hit by flash 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 the service. St Mary's has been approved for 12 places at a separate learning space at Jumbunna where they will now operate from until June.

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 this time.

Melissa said that the strength of the long-standing relationship between St Mary’s and Jumbunna has 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,” Melissa shared.

Like others in the region, 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.

Immediately after St Mary’s flooded, Melissa was able to contact other preschool directors through the Alliance that could shed some light on what to expect in the days and weeks ahead.

“We’ve never had to deal with [flooding] in the past, so it’s been invaluable to be able to reach out to other directors who have been through this previously.”

Melissa said that the community’s generosity has been felt across the Northern Rivers, with many services and businesses donating equipment and resources, along with relief packages for children and educators.

“It has been such a tumultuous time for the people of the Northern Rivers.

“The biggest takeaway from this is how strong community is. 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.”

Stay up to date with the Northern Rivers Preschool Alliance via their Facebook page.

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