IT has been a year of rocks and diamonds for Girgarre Community Kindergarten.
Having started the semester in January with only the minimum number of enrolments to stay in business, staff were faced with the genuine possibility of their education centre being closed within a matter of years.
But thanks to a rallying of support from parents and members of the community, the kindergarten managed to double its enrolments in only two months.
Leading educator Robyn Swan said the tremendous turnaround was thanks to a marketing campaign, which was pushed through flyers and social media.
“I’ve heard in the past that a lot of people don’t even know that Girgarre Kindergarten even exists,” she said.
“So, we created the Girgarre Community Kindergarten public Facebook page that says ‘we’re here, and we’re a kinder that is taking enrolments'.
“We turned everything around by doubling our enrolments to 10 just by advertising and putting that word of mouth out.”
Ms Swan said it was unclear as to why Girgarre parents had been choosing to send their child elsewhere, but it was a problem she was determined to fix.
“Being a small township as well, farmers are doing it tough at the moment. We’re finding that might have an effect, too,” she said.
“It’s an unknown quantity at this stage but we’re just trying to get our word out that the kindergarten is there, we are open and we want your enrolment.”
Unfortunately for the kindergarten’s staff, the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head, which forced them to move their education program to remote learning.
“Sadly, we only had those new children for a few weeks when coronavirus happened,” Ms Swan said.
“Parents have chosen to keep their children at home so at the moment we’re providing the kindergarten through remote learning.”
As part of their new remote learning program, staff first sent a special ‘kindergarten pack’ to all households by mail which included several hands-on activities and arts resources.
On top of that, the kindergarten educators and children now participate in 15 to 20 minute meetings on the video conferencing app Zoom a few days a week.
Ms Swan said the transition to online learning had been a positive experience for children, parents and educators.
“The Zoom meetings are such a great way to stay in touch with the families and continue that relationship with the child as well,” she said.
“We’ve had tours of their actual property by the child and pets shown — it’s been amazing.
“It’s a different relationship now but it’s much closer and is great for the child to see that the kinder is still engaging with them even from home.”