Orignially started by a group of three local mothers in March 1966, the Woodlands Park Pre-school Club was formed as a place for local mothers to socialise and play with their pre-schoolers. With equipment acquired from the local schools, donations and raffle proceeds, the group met weekly in the Woodlands Park Hall, the building which stands at 22A Minnehaha Avenue today.
All the mothers shared in supervisory capacities until a licence was granted and the first Centre Manager was employed in 1974. The 'Band of Helpers' became the 'Mother's Helpers' on a rostered basis, and this initiative continues today with our "Parent Help" roster.
As the Hall was designated a War Memorial Hall it was not possible for the Centre to obtain a permanent lease for the building and they shared the hall with many other groups – indoor bowls, brownies, keas, clog dancers and drama classes – as well as the Woodlands Park Library in what is now the downstairs storage area. On the weekend the Hall catered for social occasions and parties.
By 1975 the need for improved childcare initiated a series of changes in Early Childhood settings. The Centre employed their first qualified Teacher, a sandpit was built, outdoor equipment was established, a syllabus planned and soon, with building escalating in the area, the Centre opened for four sessions, with two parent helpers and 24 children in each. A year later another teacher was employed.
In 1979 the space previously reserved for the Ratepayers Association became the Centre's office and large windows were installed and the telephone was connected. That year the Centre became Woodlands Park Community Kindergarten, the first non-state kindergarten in Auckland, when it acquired state funding. By 1986 the whole childcare sector was taken under the umbrella of the Education Department. The Kindy found themselves at the forefront of these changes.
With ever increasing numbers, the Kindy expanded again to employ two Teacher Assistants and start afternoon sessions, and in 1987 the humble pre-school club started by three mothers celebrated 21 years.
Finally in 1988 the Kindy became the only remaining Hall user and took on the role of custodian. A long sought after lease became a possibility. The Hall underwent major restructuring to meet the regulations governing Childcare Centres to comply with funding.
The Kindy was now an incorporated society with a constitution, a charter, well established sessions with permanent teachers and enthusiastic relievers, and a devoted committee of parents.
Many major projects over the years have seen the entire refurbishment of the playgroud in accordance with Government regulations, teaching staff acquiring equivalency of Early Childhood Education Diplomas, formal establishment of the Management Board with job descriptions, and a library of policies to comply with Goverment legislation.
More recently the Kindy underwent another restructure to adapt from the traditional 'sessional' model of Mornings and Afternoons to that of a 'full licence' kindergarten offering a longer day and to comply with new ECE funding regulations.
And what of the future? A new playground project has come to fruition, a website was launched and there will be many other ideas generated from the enthusiasm of future Management Boards. But most of all a steady supply of our most precious commodity of all, THE CHILDREN, and their wonderful families who have each made their own contribution to a thriving centre for families in Woodlands Park. It all started with a humble idea of three mothers nearly 50 years ago.