The positive energy one encounters upon entering the Docklands Kids & Co Early Learning Center in Village St is palpable.
It’s an atmosphere many families have sorely missed over the past 18 months with COVID forcing children apart into distance learning.
But with Victoria out of lockdowns amid rising vaccination rates, those all-too-familiar sounds and rhythms of life are slowly returning to Kids & Co.
While there are few happier people than the children and parents themselves, the owners of the center, Paul and Kathy Klisaris, are absolutely thrilled.
“Walking in the noise again is so uplifting,” said Kathy. “It’s great for everyone’s morale and so nice that they [the children] see their friends again.
After an incredibly difficult 18 months, Kids & Co is once again open to the community, albeit slowly.
After seeing admissions drop from 120 to three at the start of the pandemic, Paul and Kathy described the impacts on their dedicated team of educators as “frightening” and “heartbreaking.”
But grateful for government support and help from their owner, or “Team Australia at its best” as Paul described it, the center has managed to pull through and its future looks bright again.
“We find that we are slowly going backwards,” Paul said. “For 15 or 16 of those 18 months the phone stopped ringing, the door never opened unless a parent came in with their child.”
“[During] last month we started to see this ramping up and it’s just nice to see the visits and the families coming back. ”
We are so happy that the service is buzzing again.
You would be hard pressed to find two people more dedicated to preschool education than Paul and Kathy Klisaris.
Having together forged a career in teaching and educating young people for over 30 years, their passion is manifested in all aspects of the environment they have created at Kids & Co since its opening in 2015.
Beginning their careers in what Paul described as the “dark ages” of the unregulated and uneducated industry, the couple were drawn to child care by a shared desire for change.
And starting with their first center in 1996, Paul said that they have always strived to run one center at a time and put all their heart and soul into doing it right.
“It has been our philosophy to be practical, family oriented, to have one service – and one is enough – and to do it well,” he said. “Our longevity is built on being family oriented, and we’re here all the time.”
“Parents bring their little ones and they should expect to pick up their child as they did – happy, healthy, fed, butt changed and having enjoyed lots of activities, learning something.”
This philosophy is underpinned by a caring, safe, supportive, warm, happy and stimulating learning environment, offering children the opportunities and flexibility to play, discover and develop at their own pace.
And they can also do it in a state-of-the-art facility. Kids & Co provides a rare central environment in the city center in the heritage-listed Docklands Freight Shed, with several incredible indoor learning spaces and an expansive outdoor play area overlooking Flinders St.
“Whether adults and children, we are all equal. We don’t use the word family in a broad sense, you are part of our family. And we see it every day in the way children interact with us. They all know us by name, ”said Paul.
“You can’t stress the importance of providing an environment for a child to express himself and be what he wants to be without judgment or fear, and we do it in spades.”
“It’s about loving what you do, and we love what we do.”
Kathy added, “The best thing for us is that at the end of the day they [the children] I just don’t want to go home. It’s beautiful for us.
With a diverse and multicultural team of qualified educators, Kids & Co welcomes families from all backgrounds.
Approved for 130 children, the establishment, located at 8 Village St, Docklands, is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. •
For more information or to book a visit:
kidsandcochildcare.com.au or email [email protected]