22 December, 2023
A 'new era' for region’s childcare
A NEW $5 million childcare centre will be built in Mareeba early next year, providing the town with a state-of-the-art facility to improve local children’s learning and development.
The Mareeba Kids Campus on Constance Street has been operating for over 40 years in the facility, servicing 75 children per day – the highest capacity offered on the Tablelands.
When construction is complete, the Kids Campus will host up to approximately 115 children a day.
With the building starting to age, Kids Campus CEO Jeanette Sturiale knew it was time to upgrade and expand into a new era.
“It is going to be a full demolition. We have looked into a lot of options, but the building is just too old and has too much risk, so we are going to rebuild it completely,” she said.
The new facility will boast many new and improved features, including classrooms with easier access to outside, a kitchen and a designated space for medical specialists when visiting.
Ms Sturiale said her main focus was to make sure the centre was accessible and secure as possible.
“The industry is high risk, so we are definitely building it to be very secure through pick-ups and drop-offs,” she said.
“I guess natural lighting is also going to be something we have definitely focused on, and in all our designs we have, there will be sunlight coming into every room to give it an airy feel rather than dark and gloomy, which happens, unfortunately when you have an old building.
“Being in the tropics, it will also be fully airconditioned … and we will have a fully functional kitchen facility, so parents will no longer have to bring their children food.”
Making the drop-off and pick-up process more accessible for parents is essential to Ms Sturiale, implementing new ways to get children to class effortlessly.
“We are looking at ways we can make their lives easier in terms of getting their kids to daycare and then getting themselves to work every day,” she said.
“It can be a big journey, and I think it is important to make it as convenient as possible.”
The current facility has been described as a “rabbit hole” by staff and parents, with long, twisting hallways between each classroom.
The new facility will create more convenience for classes and teachers navigating around, with each room having access to the playground and nature play area.
“It will make a huge difference because we can introduce an outside learning program, and we can have some kids inside and some outside,” Ms Sturiale said.
“And for some kids who have a bit of anxiety or are having some issues in the classroom, being outside in the elements is more calming and can help them relax.
“At the moment, we don’t have the option to take a child outside because of the way you have to navigate your way through the building, but definitely, with this new building, we will be able to offer that 100% of the time.”
With complete demolition planned for early to mid-January, Ms Sturiale said neighbours would not be affected by the construction process but warned of some noise.
“We are still working with the builders at this time to get everything finalised and ready for demolition, but there won’t be any risk – we are going to get it started before school is back,” she said.
“It could be a little noisy, but it is all part of the process. I think the school traffic will be just as loud.”
While construction is taking place, children will be relocated to the Kids Campus Dunlop Street facility, which Ms Sturiale said her team spent two years preparing to host more children.
After-school care will be moved to St Thomas’s School across the road.
With over $350,000 worth of upgrades to the Dunlop campus, children can still enjoy daycare and kindergarten comfortably.
“We have made significant modifications to be able to accommodate everyone,” Ms Sturiale said.
“We made these huge investments to Dunlop Street two years ago to prepare but have really kicked into gear over the past 12 months, and I guess the good thing is to see the other service we own being able to facilitate more.
“Without it, we wouldn’t be able to upgrade Constance Street.”
With the significant shift into the new era coming closer, Ms Sturiale is feeling excited to see what the new facility has to offer and to watch the next generation flourish behind its walls.
“Hundreds and hundreds of people who have invested so much into this business and helped raise money for our non-profit, and we want to pay tribute to that,” she said.
“Without the help of the past staff, we wouldn’t be able to do this, and I am super proud of our whole team.
“A lot of our older staff feel in awe that this is a new era, and no one knows what to expect.
“I think this is a very special time and is very exciting for all of us, and I think although it’s hard to picture what it will look like, even though we have artist impressions and all, we know it will be great.”