FEARS are growing for the future of Banbridge Pre-School as it faces closure.
The school, which currently caters for 120 children and 28 staff, was told it must move from its site on the Ballygowan Road after the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT), which owns the site, terminated the group’s tenancy.
Linda McAdam, the centre manager and founder, said a significant lack of funding has also added to the pre-school’s plight and added that its closure would be “a major blow” to the local community.
“We had been successful in obtaining capital funding in the form of a grant and had been offered a site,” said Ms McAdam in a statement on behalf of the pre-school’s organisational committee.
“We had also proceeded with plans to place two sectional buildings on this site to house both our pre-school and also our daycare centre which had been placed with the Planning Division for approval.
“Unfortunately the capital funding that we had received could only contribute towards the pre-school section of the building and we were unsuccessful in obtaining funds to allow us to proceed with the rest of the project.”
The community-run centre, which depends on fundraising and grants due to its charity status, should be celebrating 26 years in existence this year.
A concerned parent of a toddler who currently attends the centre told the Leader she is desperate for the centre to remain open. “My son is a very happy little boy and I was very upset to hear of the prospect of losing the school. As I understand it, there is a difficulty locating alternative suitable premises and of course funding issues also.”
A number of parents have launched an online petition which had 28 signatures by Monday evening, in a bid to save the centre.
Ms McAdam said the staff members and management committee of the centre are “exremely saddened” at the prospect of the school’s closure.
It is understood the Southern Education and Library Board will contact parents of children who had hoped to obtain one of the 46 pre-school places for the upcoming 2011-2012 year.
The centre manager said the SHSCT had worked closely with the group for the past 18 months in search of an alternative location.
“I would like to thank The Southern Health Care Trust for all their help and time given to Banbridge Pre School Centre in our vigorous pursuit of alternative premises,” added Ms McAdam.