Hobsons Bay council has agreed to consult with the community before voting whether or not to close three kindergartens and merge them to one.
Staff were “devastated” after being told on Thursday that Altona Kindergarten in Blyth Street, Somers Parade Kindergarten and Altona West Kindergarten would be closed over the next three years.
A source, who asked not to be named, said staff and parents were told the kindergartens would be moved to a new hub being built at Altona P-9 College.
“Their reasoning is that it’s what the community wants and there’s a demand for it,” the source said. “But I know for a fact that Somers Parade and Altona kindergartens are in demand and always at capacity.
“Teachers pour their hearts and souls into these kindergartens and are devastated.”
Hobsons Bay council’s community wellbeing director, Peter Hunt, said a council report outlined how it could utilise $1.6 million state government funding to establish an integrated early-years hub at the college.
“One of the report recommendations is that a number of nearby existing kindergartens could transition into a new $6.9 million early-years hub building similar to the award-winning integrated hub in Newport,” Mr Hunt said.
“There is also no proposed loss of jobs or reduction in kindergarten places.
“In fact, there may be a future need to increase the number of jobs in line with a predicted increase in demand.”
Residents and parents responded to the news by forming an Altona Community Action Group and launching a petition calling on the council to reject the plan.
More than 500 people signed within the first 48 hours.
Lead petitioner Aaron Hunt said feedback suggested the council had misjudged how much people valued the current kinder structure.
“This is a real community in Altona and people are looking at this going, ‘seriously, why would they do that, why wouldn’t they add to the infrastructure rather than pull apart what we’ve got right now?’ ” he said.
“We go from kinders 200, 300, 400 metres from people’s homes – easy walking distance for a three or four-year-old toddler – to being one or 1.5 kilometres away, beyond what’s walkable.
“We’re now back to jumping into cars, driving up to a much larger, less intimate centre, dropping off kids and shooting through.
“It starts to unravel the nature of a real community. If we go to a consolidated centre we no longer have parent committees so it’s no longer community-based – it’s corporately run.”
The council was expected to vote for the closures at Tuesday’s meeting but instead agreed to community consultation before reporting back in March.