Ellerslie preschool children make way for retirement village

Students and teachers from Portland House Montessori preschool. Photo / Facebook
Students and teachers from Portland House Montessori preschool. Photo / Facebook

About 70 children will have to move out of their Ellerslie preschool at the end of this term to make way for a planned retirement village.

The Portland House Montessori preschool, which has subleased space on the grounds of the Ellerslie Racecourse in Morrin St for 20 years, has been told it has to move out by November 9 when the Auckland Racing Club's lease expires.

The site is owned by developer Tim Edney and Auckland Council designated it as a Special Housing Area in September 2014, saying it "will likely result in a new retirement village". Edney declined to answer calls about progress this week except to confirm when the racing club's lease ends.

Portland House owner Pauline Pertab said she notified her 12 staff and parents of her 68 preschoolers last week that the preschool would close at the end of this term to allow time to clear the site by November.

A parent, Tracy Marshall, said 200 parents and supporters had signed a petition to Education Minister Hekia Parata to find a new site for the preschool and started a Facebook page, @saveportlandhouse.

"Our time is running out so we the parents are appealing to the community to see if there is anything out there suitable to accommodate one of the most amazing preschools in Auckland," she said.

Pertab said Panmure District School was willing to provide space for the preschool.
"They are low on numbers and have two spare classrooms which we could utilise immediately while we transfer our buildings," she said.

Panmure board of trustees chair Ivan Vea confirmed that the school was keen to have them.

"The spinoff that we may have from it is that we may have some of the preschool kids come on to us," he said.

But he said the Ministry of Education had rejected the proposal because of likely growth in the school roll arising from planned new housing in the area.

The ministry's infrastructure head Jerome Sheppard said the ministry "would never stand by and allow a preschool to lose its premises without supporting it to find a safe and suitable new home".

"Unfortunately, the Montessori has left it quite late to find new premises but we will do everything we are able to do to help source a temporary location, including considering Panmure District School, until a permanent site can be found," he said.

Ministry officials will meet the preschool and Panmure School leaders on Friday.

Hekia Parata's office declined to comment.

- NZ Herald

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