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The Cambridge Prep School

(Note – this article was written for the Florida Times Union which owns the copyright.  It is included here as a sample of my writing in this format.)

Parents at the Beaches will soon have a special place to take their children during the day. Cambridge Prep School is opening a new preschool and day care in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Cambridge’s owner, Eve Kratsas, says the school is designed for professional parents needing a full day’s childcare combined with one of the best preschool programs available today. They teach children in three age groups: 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4 and 5-year-olds.

Kratsas opened her first Cambridge Prep more than two years ago. It’s located at 13109 Professional Drive in Jacksonville (near the intersection of Atlantic Boulevard and Hodges.) She held the groundbreaking for the new Ponte Vedra school in June and expects to be open for business in early January. It’s located at 185 Landrum Lane.

Kratsas says the schools are something she has always wanted to do. She has an academic background in both childhood development and psychology.

Sherrie Marzi is the director of the new school. She’s built a 22-year career in early childhood education including service in New Jersey and at the Bolles School.

Marzi emphasizes the standards at Cambridge Prep. “Our teachers meet or exceed the state requirement of a child development associative certificate, meaning they’ve had about 150 hours of coursework,” she says. “And our student/teacher ratio is far lower than state requirements.”

Marzi says the low ratio gives the teachers much more time for sitting down and working with one child individually while others participate in supervised group activities.

Kratsas says parents especially like being able to check on their children during school. Parents are encouraged to drop by and spend time in the classroom. Each classroom also has an observation window where parents can look in on their children from the lobby.

And Kratsas says their KinderCam system is becoming a very popular option for checking in on the children. Cambridge equips each classroom, as well as the outside playground, with cameras, and parents and other relatives can look in on their children over the Internet. The system uses a secure password so only authorized folks can use it. Kratsas says the system is particularly popular with grandparents, aunts and uncles who live in distant cities.

“The KinderCam system gives extended family members a chance to be a part of the child’s day,” says Kratsas.

The school also sends home written reports on how each child spent his or her day. Two-year olds bring home the Rainbow Report. It’s a detailed look at the child’s day with everything from what the child ate to what happened in the various classes.

Cambridge uses a curriculum, which is both teacher-directed and child-directed.

“Our goal is to make learning fun while preparing the child for the future,” says Marzi. “We cover everything from shape, color, and size to science and special activities. This month they’re exploring not only turkeys, but the animals in the forest.”

Each classroom has separate learning centers called The Cambridge City. Each city has a fire department, a post office, a bank and Grand Ma’s Grocery. The child-sized rooms contain dress up clothes and various things that teach. The post office contains numbers and letters. Grand Ma’s grocery contains the things one finds in a grocery store. Marzi says the children love the creative activities in The Cambridge City.

The children in both the three-year-old and four and five-year old classrooms also get to use computers. Cambridge has a wide range of programs for the children to enjoy. The programs reinforce the different tasks and skills the children are learning.

Kratsas emphasizes that Cambridge gets the children ready for kindergarten with a quality curriculum, and that both the teachers and children have fun doing it.

“We strive for a warm and fuzzy feeling – for both the children and the parents,” says Marzi. “We try to give the children as much TLC as possible at this age.”

Cambridge is currently enrolling students for its Ponte Vedra Beach school. Parents can bring their children by the Professional Drive location to take a look and get a feel of the school. Kratsas says she will have an open house at the Ponte Vedra location in December. Parents can call either school for information. The telephone number for the Ponte Vedra Beach school is 285-7997. The Professional Drive location is 220-7737.