SITE preparation work has started in earnest for Foster’s new $1.2 million modular kindergarten to be assembled at Foster Primary School in Pioneer Street.
Temporary fencing has been erected around the site in the northwestern corner of the schoolgrounds, a few trees and other vegetation removed, and some ground clearing and levelling undertaken.
The six sections that will form the 33-place kindergarten are expected to arrive and be installed at the school in late August, with landscaping to be carried out during September.
The project is due for practical completion by the end of this year, and the kindergarten’s doors will open to welcome its first intake of enrolled three-and four-year-old children at the beginning of Term One in 2023.
The building will be the new home of the existing Foster Kindergarten, which is run by and is at present located at Prom Coast Centres for Children Inc. (PCCC) in Foster.
PCCC also operates the Corner Inlet district’s other three kindergartens at Fish Creek, Toora and Welshpool, as well as long day care and early childhood services and programs at its own Pioneer Street headquarters.
Working in close partnership with Foster Primary School, PCCC initiated the Foster kindergarten and school co-location project in August 2020, and later successfully applied for State Government funding.
The $1.2 million grant was secured through the Victorian School Building Authority’s (VSBA) Building Blocks Capacity Building Grant Scheme.
This scheme fully pays for architecturally-designed, templated early childhood buildings that are prefabricated off-site, which can reduce timelines, costs, and risks associated with traditional design and construction.
“We are so are excited that the kindergarten building works are now under way!” PCCC Foster Centre Director Sue Millett said.
“The project will progress quickly now and over the next few months the community will observe regular changes on the primary school site,” she said.
“Research clearly demonstrates that when early years education is co-located and effectively integrated with primary schools, there is a range of benefits for children, families, teachers, other professionals, and the broader community.
“This project has enabled PCCC to achieve best practice principles in early childhood, as well as to address the Centre’s current inability to meet the growing demand for early childhood services in our community,” Ms Millett said.
“Foster Primary principal Scott Moorhouse, administration officer Kylie Mitchell, and the School Council have been incredibly supportive of the kindergarten on the school site concept ever since it was first identified as an opportunity last year.
“They all have really embraced this project and their proactive and tireless efforts will ensure the new kindergarten will integrate seamlessly with the school’s physical and learning environments.”
Foster Primary School Principal Scott Moorhouse was equally pleased that the new kindergarten progressing.
“It’s great see the project going ahead here at the school, because in education, the hardest transition is going from kinder to school,” he said.
“It certainly will be an asset being able to integrate our programs, share resources and support our families even more effectively.
“Having the kindergarten in the same place as the primary school also means that earlier intervention, when required, can occur, too.”
School Council President Matt Wallis said the combination of kindergarten and school “is a fantastic project, and a great opportunity for both the school and the community.”
The Foster co-location project is being managed by the VSBA’s Kindergarten Facilities Implementation Early Childhood Infrastructure and Grants Department.
The VSBA liaises with innovative and sustainable modular building construction group Fleetwood Australia, which is responsible for the delivery of the project.
A Project Control Group comprising representatives from the PCCC, Foster Primary, the VSBA and Fleetwood meets fortnightly and has concentrated on being certain the project will supply the absolute best possible learning environment for children.
PCCC Early Years Manager Wil Pruyn said working with the Project Control Group has been “a positive experience.
“The VSBA, Fleetwood and the Primary School have all responded well to the best practice project suggestions we’ve made,” she said.
“Everyone in the Group wants to ensure that the internal design of the building and the outdoor learning space are fit for purpose and support the access and participation of every child in a quality physical environment.
“PCCC are early years sector leaders with their immediate roll-out of 15 hours of Three Year Old kindergarten in 2020 and now in 2022 they’re leading the way with this Early Years Reform infrastructure project on primary school sites,” Ms Pruyn said.
“All new schools that are built in Victoria will now have an early years education facility on site, and we will strongly advocate for this model to be introduced throughout the Corner Inlet district.”
Ms Millett said, “co-location offers easier transitions between kindergarten and the first year of primary school, and provides continuity of environment, social networks, and learning and teaching,” she said.
“This continuity promotes a sense of connection and security, which helps children thrive within the school setting.
“PCCC firmly believe that the kindergarten on school sites model is a model of choice,” Ms Millett said.
“They also think that South Gippsland Shire Council should be strongly considering this same model as a solution to the ageing state of Toora and Welshpool’s kindergarten facilities, which have been on their agenda for replacement since 2015,” she said.
“PCCC will continue to advocate to our Shire that flexible kindergartens on school sites for these two towns will be the long-term way to support sustainability and provide educational precincts for kindergarten, long day care, and ancillary services for the children and families in these parts of our catchment.”