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What is the difference between a daycare and preschool?

A daycare or child care center is designed to provide safe care for your child, while a preschool or early education program is intended to stimulate learning, creativity, and essential skill development to prepare your child for the classroom experience.

How do I determine which school will be best to educate my child and prepare him/her for kindergarten?

You first need to understand your goals for your child’s education. You should then visit several preschools to view the interactions and meet with staff in person. Every school has its own philosophy as do parents and you should try to find a school that best matches your beliefs. You should also ask to speak with parents of current students or ask to view parent testimonials. The State of Florida offers VPK or Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten to all children who are 4 years old by September 1st. One of the great things about VPK is that providers are held accountable for the outcomes of their students' scores as they are tested within the 1st 3 weeks of Kindergarten. The Cottages is a top notch VPK provider and has remained between a 195 - 200 out of a perfect score of 200 each year. For more information, you can visit the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County's website at

What type of licensing and accreditation do you have?

The Cottages is licensed through the state of Florida and has earned a Gold certification through the National Green School Coalition. The Green School certification reflects our commitment to delivering healthy and sustainable learning environments for your child.

What is your educational philosophy?

At The Cottages at Michaels Learning Center, we provide a physically safe and emotionally secure environment, where children are nurtured, respected, and encouraged in a supportive, confidence-building atmosphere. Our center is designed to care for and educate your “whole” child, offering opportunities for your child to explore and experiment with a variety of materials and experiences, while promoting your child’s physical, emotional, intellectual, creative, and social development. Our program is based on respect and trust for children, valuing their authentic feelings and encouraging them to be active participants in their environment. Children are allowed the opportunity for real interactions with their environment and materials, inspiring them to explore and initiate their own learning. Through play experiences, children are supported in their efforts to make their own appropriate choices as well as respecting teachers, peers and classroom materials.

What is your children-to-teacher ratio?

Our children-to-teacher ratio averages 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers and young twos, 9:1 for older twos, threes, fours and fives. These figures can vary slightly from day to day, depending on those children who are absent or on a part time schedule. On average, how long have your teachers been teaching? We take education seriously, so we employ only experienced and dedicated educators. Our teachers have a range from 2 - 25 years of classroom teaching experience. We also believe that our environment is a great one for beginning teachers to learn from and will pair them with master teachers within our program.

What is your staff turnover rate?

Our turnover rate is much lower than the average because we create a positive environment not only for our children, but also for our staff.

How many staff members CPR and first aid certified?

We require that every member of our staff maintain a current certification in both CPR and first aid, even though the state dictates that only one person per every 20 children must have these credentials.

Are children of different ages grouped together?

For the safety and comfort of your child, in most cases we group children according to the peer group they would go to Kindergarten with. In this way, we can guarantee age-appropriate activities and play. During the early morning (6:30 am - 8 am) and late afternoon (5 - 6 pm) the younger groups and older groups are combined either in the classroom or on the playground.

Do you welcome parent involvement? Can I stop by unannounced?

The answer to both is a resounding, “YES!” Our school is a community that embraces the whole family. We host events throughout the year, including holiday parties and celebrations to encourage families to be involved in their child’s experience. Each cottage has a room mom who helps to coordinate these events with other families in the classroom. We welcome and appreciate parent volunteers throughout the year to help out in your child's classroom as well as with school wide events such as fundraisers. We have an open door policy and parents are welcome to drop in anytime!

What types of activities do you offer for infants and toddlers?

To support child development at an individual pace, our rooms are filled with safe, simple toys to stimulate a child’s natural curiosity. The rooms are designed to include developmentally appropriate materials and equipment to accommodate the children at different stages. Each child is encouraged to manipulate toys without adult intervention. When out of class room, babies are strapped safely in strollers for rides in the fresh air and enjoy playing outdoors in our covered and fenced in play area, Jennie’s House. Our Toddlers also enjoy playing in Jennie’s House as well as safely exploring the great outdoors on their covered/screened in lanai, on the toddler playground, or in the school garden.

What will my child be learning in your preschool?

We introduce the fundamentals of Art, Literacy, Music, Math and Science through our emergent or "project based" curriculum which is designed to allow each child to learn at his individual level while allowing him to explore his own areas of interest and follow his own natural curiosity. Children in our program also receive extra enrichment classes! Spanish Instruction and Movin' & Groovin' are taught once per week for 30 minutes and Story Stretchers is held once per month. For specific information in relation to your child's age, please see our parent handbook.

How often do you clean the rooms and toys?

All of our facilities (including toys that are mouthed) are cleaned at least once a day. The infant and toddler rooms are cleaned as needed throughout, and the changing tables are disinfected after each diaper change. Toys in our program are cleaned each week or as needed. Our teachers are responsible for the upkeep and cleanliness of their classroom on a daily basis. Additionally, we use a Green cleaning company for all our deep cleaning needs.

What is your policy regarding sick children?

In order to keep our children and their families, and our staff, as healthy as possible, we require that any child with a fever over 100 degrees, more than one occurrence of vomiting or diarrhea, or any contagious disease be kept at home. We follow the regulations set forth by licensing. Please see our sick policy for more information.

How large is your playground?

We have two spacious, well-equipped playgrounds, one for children 18 months - 3 years, and one for children 2 - 5 years so that children are only exposed to age-appropriate activities and equipment. Each playground is fenced in for security. Additionally, we have a covered outdoor play area, Jennie's House for infants - 18 months.

How do you communicate with parents?

The parents of infants, toddlers and twos receive a daily tidbit that documents feedings, naps, and other important notes. Parents of three, four and five year old children get regular updates from teachers regarding their child’s progress, and we invite parents to speak with our staff at any time. The teachers in each cottage give parents a brief overview of the class' day as well as any reminders on the white board each day. In addition, we provide a monthly newsletter to share news, event information, and other notes with our parent community. Because we are a Green school, we try to limit the amount of paper we use and we use our private website through Shutterfly for the majority of our communications. On this website, you can find items such as the parent handbook, calendar of events, snack menu, newsletters, family contact lists, a family forum, tons of pictures and videos of the children and so much more!

What if someone other than my spouse/partner or me has to pick up my child?

In order to protect your child, we require that you provide the names of any individual who has permission to pick up your child. We require advance notice from you when someone other than a family member will be picking up your child and will check identification. If we have any questions or concerns, we ask that you are available via cell phone to provide confirmation.

What security measures are in place to protect my child?

Your child’s safety and your peace of mind are of the utmost concern at The Cottages. Our entire facility is fenced in and the outside entrance is monitored throughout the day with an administrator available in the front office. All visitors must check-in in our front office when arriving.

Do you provide meals and snacks?

Yes! We provide morning and afternoon snacks and we offer an a la carte lunch program through Nutrition Kitchen. Parents have the option of bringing their child's lunch or they can choose to order nutritious, organic lunches prepared by Chef Mac deCarle. Our monthly snack menus are posted on the parent information boards in each cottage as well as on our Shutterfly website and lunch menus from Nutrition Kitchen are sent home each month.

Can I get a daily record of my child’s experiences?

Yes. This is a standard practice for the infants, toddlers and twos in our care, but we also extend the courtesy to any parent who requests such notes. We understand that you need to be part of your child’s experience, even when you can’t physically be there. Our goal is to involve you as much as possible in the day-to-day development.

What are your rates?

We do not post our rates but are happy to email them to you. Please contact us and let us know the program you are interested in.

What hours are you open?

We are open year round, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Cottages at Michaels Learning Center is open year round from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday excluding holidays and teacher in-service days as outlined in the academic year calendar distributed annually at the beginning of the academic year.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact

Michelle Ireland, Owner/Director or Liz Jahnke, Co-Director at:
The Cottages at Michaels Learning Center, Inc.
602 McIntosh Road
Sarasota, Fl 34232
941.377.9700 Fax: 941.377.9730