Walcha's newest preschool building was officially opened by the Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson last Friday - setting in place state-of-the-art education prospects for the town's littlest citizens.
The new preschool was constructed with a $660,000 Stronger Country Communities Fund grant and replaced a 100-year-old centre. The early intervention classroom, which was opened in 2005, remains and the new preschool facility, which has taken nearly 12 months to complete, covers an area within the former building's footprint.
"Walcha Preschool plays a special role within the community, and we want to ensure that when children are getting their start in life, they can do so in fresh modern facilities," Mr Anderson said.
"The community takes great pride in its preschool, which is why we recognised its importance and replaced the building."
The building still requires some final licensing approvals before it can open for business.
Walcha Council community services manager Karen Kermode says it will be open next term so the current 4-year-old cohort, who have spent the year in a temporary classroom, can experience the new building before they go off to big school next year.
We are very excited to be so close to moving into the new preschool buildingWalcha Community Services Manager Karen Kermode
"We are very excited to be so close to moving into the new preschool building," said Mrs Kermode.
"It has been a long process, and the staff, children and families of the preschool have been very patient with the temporary arrangements. We hope to be able to move in later this month."
Mrs Kermode said there would be a community open day later in the year and everyone will be welcome to have a walkthrough and look at the new facilities.
The building budget was supplemented by a donation from the Mirani Bus Committee who put $300,000 in a community trust fund when the not-for-profit ceased operating five years ago.
When it is completed, the total cost of the project will come in at around $1.2 million and nearly double the capacity of the current facility.
"Every child deserves access to top-quality early childhood education," Mr Anderson said last week.
"Our country kids must have access to the same services as their city counterparts. Even more so now as the region is experiencing some really tough times, we must continue to support our regional families.
I am really pleased to be able to open this preschool and promote the importance of early childhood educationKevin Anderson
"I am really pleased to be able to open this preschool and promote the importance of early childhood education because I know how passionate Walcha's residents are to push for the best amenities possible for the town."
The building incorporates all the latest environmental building code elements and is a passive solar design with heating but no air conditioning.
"The high windows face north and can be opened to let out the hot air during summer," Mrs Kermode said.
"The deck area and office area ceilings are made from insulated panels which will help to keep these areas cool during summer and retain the winter heat.
"We have installed a 5000L rainwater tank and are currently watering some small shrubs using greywater. We will complete some more planting after we receive some rain, and these will be drought and frost resistant natives."
Electric heating uses heat bank panel heaters which charge up overnight using off-peak power.
"They are also designed to run off solar," Mrs Kermode said. "We have had the electrical connections for solar panels installed, so when we have money for panels it shouldn't cost very much to install them, and all lights use energy-efficient LEDs."
Mr Anderson congratulated the supporters of the preschool and acknowledged the Walcha Council and its staff.
"By improving our local facilities, we're not only helping the local community, but we are also continuing to build Walcha's appeal to the wider region," he said.
"We know how important preschool is to help our kids get ready for 'big school'. This is why we need to support services to ensure the appropriate infrastructure is in place to accommodate the growing number of enrolments in preschools."