Department of Education announces closure of South Coast daycare centre, impacting 60 kids

Parents with children at a South Coast daycare center have been given one month to find a new service after the Department of Education announced it would not renew the lease for the site.

The site of Milton’s Big Fat Smile center is set to be used for a new special needs school.

The development application for construction was lodged with Shoalhaven Council in December.

It is yet to be approved.

Marc Donnelley, whose daughter Aria is in her final year at the centre, says there is frustration and fear among parents.

“My daughter is in the last year of her early childhood education and this is meant to be the year she cements all her learning objectives and cements herself for big school,” Mr Donnelly said.

“In four weeks time she is going to be locked out of the place she loves, she’s probably going to be split up from most of her friends and we’re expected to cover that and manage that.”

A smiling man huddles with his young daughter for a selfie.
Marc Donnelly says his daughter Aria is now facing a potentially tumultuous final year of early childhood education.(Supplied: Marc Donnelly)

Phil McDonald, the chief executive of surf brand Ocean and Earth, started his child at the center three weeks ago but was not told anything about the closure.

“We had others [childcare] spots available, which we gave up to go to this one,” he said.

“If we can’t find another spot, we’ll have to drop a day or two and pick up a nanny.”

Mr McDonald has called for the DA process to be halted for three to six months.

A bearded man with graying hair stands in a garden, smiling.
Phil McDonald was not told about the centre’s future when he started sending his child there this year.(Supplied: Phil McDonald)

Big Fat Smile chief executive Kim Bertino said the center was notified last week that it would not be able to remain at the site.

“We have been trying to work towards having a temporary site where the center is located at the moment,” she said.

“With the department, it’s been unsuccessful to remain on that site and there is no option to extend.”

‘Totally unacceptable’

The Liberal candidate for Gilmore, Luke Sikora, criticized the Department of Education’s decision.

“I am sharing their frustration and disappointment at the Department’s decision,” he said after speaking with parents today.

“We do have a DA for a new childcare site, meters away from this one and I call on council to expedite that approval.”

He said he was working with other childcare services in a bid to address the matter.

“We are looking to increase capacity of childcare services in the area and we have received expressions of interest from centers willing to do that,” Mr Sikora said.

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