Winter Park Day Nursery Is Celebrating 80 Years of Child Care

The Winter Park Day Nursery is celebrating 80 years of providing affordable child care in Winter Park. Winter Park Day Nursery provides a secure, nurturing an educational environment that is affordable and supports family diversity. Their child caretakers provide high-quality, affordable early childhood education aimed at helping your child succeed in school and life.

The Winter Park institution recently celebrated 80 years of providing affordable education. They provide child care for children and working families in need of child care services.

“There’s a lot of research that talks about the importance of developing children’s brains between the years of zero and 5,” Day Nursery Executive Director Ali DeMaria said. “The things they learn and the environments they are in during those formative years … it’s when they’re going through those developmental milestones and creating their personalities. The effects of being in a loving and supporting and safe environment (are) immense.”

A Helping Hand

The preschool cares for 65 student who are 6 weeks to 5 years old in a number of different ways, including early literacy, math readiness, and social and emotional development.

The school employs a creative curriculum through which the children are encouraged to make choices and ask questions throughout each day. The school’s teachers provide experiences and learning situations to promote mental growth. Winter Park Day Nursery specializes in offering subsidies and scholarships for families who don’t qualify for government assistance so they can send their children to the preschool.

Seventy percent of the nursery’s families receive some form of financial support, either from the preschool or the state, The school has started its crisis fund program in recent years to help working families from missing payments that would affect their ability to work and pay for childcare.

The organization needs the help of patrons to help families cover the crisis program and tuition subsidies — it typically has a budget of a little more than $1 million, according to DeMaria — and hosts an annual function to thank its benefactors and raise more funds. This year’s Spring Jubilee fundraiser, which raised more than $60,000, had Whitted telling her story to Day Nursery staff and donors. The preschool has seen changes over the last several decades — it now prides itself on its educational programs — and the support and enthusiasm from the community haven’t wavered.



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  • 1939 Winter Park Day Nursery at 285 Garfield is founded
  • 1941 Nursery opens with 22 children enrolled
  • 1944 Nursery incorporates volunteer board
  • 1948 New building at 101 West Park opens, could serve 34 children
  • 1950 First African-American teachers are hired
  • 1958 City purchases West Park property
  • 1974 Twila Schmidt retires
  • 1986 Enrollment increases by 30 more children
  • 1989 Nursery is licensed by Florida Health and Human Services, receives funds from Florida Milk program
  • 2000 Nursery accredited by National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • 2011 Ali DeMari becomes Executive Director
  • 2013 Recognized as demonstration site for Program-Wise Positive Behavior



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