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By SHELLEY TOPP

The Oxford Early Learning Centre will have a huge gap to fill when two senior teachers retire this week, head supervisor Pauline White says.

Marilyn McLachlan and Lois Findlay, both from Oxford, have each worked at the centre for 28 years, beginning when the facility first opened in 1990.

They have both become good friends during that time and now find they are sometimes teaching children for parents they also taught during the early years of the centre.

A farewell function at the centre, with a celebratory cake, was planned for yesterday, and tomorrow night a farewell dinner will be held for past and present staff.

The centre is administered by a Christian charitable trust and provides full childcare for all families and whanau in the community.

It was established after a survey was circulated in the community to determine if such a facility was needed.

Pauline says it is rare for staff in the early childhood industry to stay in the same job for so long.

She says she will miss Marilyn and Lois.

“They are lovely to work with and also popular with the children and their parents.”

One parent, Kylee Lemm, from Oxford, has two girls attending the centre, Evelyn, aged 3, and Jessie aged 1.

She also attended the centre and her mother, Michele Russell, was one of the parents who took part in the original survey.

Michele says attending the centre had been good for Kylee, and she sees the same benefits for Kylee’s children.

Lois and Marilyn, and the other staff at the centre, are “genuinely beautiful people who give straight from the heart, she says. “To know the children are in a safe and happy place is a big thing and very important to me.

Lois says she has loved working at the community-minded centre, caring for the children and developing close relationships with their families. “We are a very close-knit team,” she says.

For Marilyn, the most enjoyable part of her 28 years at the centre has also been caring for the children.

“It has been so lovely,” she says. Marilyn’s last day at the centre was on Wednesday and Lois’s final day is tomorrow.

Neither has any set retirement plans.

The centre, at 166 High St, Oxford, began with a small group, but now has has a licence for up to 84 children.