River Kids Preschool damaged by flooding


In an epic rainy season where entire regions have been declared disasters, some of the not-so-catastrophic flood damage goes relatively unnoticed. But for River Kids Preschool director Veronica Contreras and her staff, the water that began seeping into the basement of the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers after early January storms has been nothing less than catastrophic.
“The flooding started right after we came back from winter break,” Contreras said. “We were two to three inches deep in water.”
Contreras enlisted the help of her students’ parents to evacuate the premises. 
“We put everything up on cinder blocks and had to throw out piles of books and learning materials that were completely destroyed,” Contreras said. 
Contreras, the director of the 24-student preschool (ages 2-6), said what adds depth to the tragedy is to see all the hard work of reorganizing and decorating the classroom go into the dumpster.
After a few days of trying to cope with the bailing of the recurring seepage and the musty, potentially unhealthy conditions, staff relocated the preschool to temporary quarters across the church parking lot in Harrison Hall. 
The current goal is to make the necessary repairs and get back into the basement with its adjacent play area in time for the fall semester.
A valuable 3R asset— River Kids, a fully licensed Spanish-immersion preschool, was founded in 2013 by Erin Leedy, who remains involved as the owner. The innovative preschool provides a valuable community service and, in some cases, is the determining factor whether families with young children can live in Three Rivers.
Students have come to Three Rivers from Woodlake and Lemon Cove seeking the Spanish-immersion program. Now preschools in Visalia are using the Three Rivers model to introduce immersion programs of their own.
From the outset, River Kids, like intermittent local preschools of the past, has thrived in their basement digs, generously provided by Community Presbyterian Church. The agreement with the church allows River Kids to occupy the facility rent-free. 
Expensive fix— Contreras and Leedy agree that financial responsibility for repairs is reasonable for the preschool to assume. River Kids is currently undertaking a fundraising campaign and, earlier this week, Contreras met with Janene Lasswell, a board member of the Three Rivers Emergency Aid Alliance. 
Preliminary costs for removing the existing flooring and repairing the concrete sub-flooring are estimated at $10,000. But church elders realize there are other structural repairs needed so they are pondering whether it makes sense to do more work as part of the same project.
How to help— The bottom line is that River Kids Preschool needs help from the community it serves. Want to make a contribution, provide some building expertise, or have a fundraiser idea? Contact Veronica Contreras (559) 794-1894 or Erin Leedy (559) 679-2107.     

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