Before Second Home opened, Ann Conners, the Principal of Spotswood Elementary School, found that many young children were wearing keys on cords around their necks and were staying home alone while parents worked. Parents told her that they could not find affordable care for their children. (Watch our documentary on Second Home.)
More than 90% of the children who attend Spotswood live in families whose income falls well below the federal poverty level. That is the highest rate of any of the eight schools in Harrisonburg. The Principal called neighboring Muhlenberg Lutheran Church for help.
In response, the pastors rallied church and community members as well as local businesses, and they developed Second Home, a fully licensed before and after school day care center for the children that is housed in Muhlenberg’s Activities Center.
Teachers at Second Home provide care for 100 children in grades k-5 before and after school. Since 2007, Second Home’s reach has expanded to 5 schools in Harrisonburg City.
Families pay a low fee that holds the spaces for their children, and to cover part of the real costs of the program. No child is turned away due to financial need thanks to donations from individuals, businesses, churches and clubs as well as fundraising events, and grants from United Way, HCPS, Harrisonburg City, KARIS, The Harrisonburg Women’s Service League, and other donors.
At Second Home, our mission is to ensure that working families have access to safe, affordable, quality childcare – with a firm focus on academic services. Each child is required to read at least 30 minutes each day and complete all homework before joining in structured activities or free time.
Certified teachers, community volunteers, and college students with relevant majors, such as education or social work, all work together to supervise academic activities and provide individual tutoring.
Our teachers keep in touch with the children’s school teachers, guidance counselors, and reading specialists at Spotswood Elementary, Smithland Elementary, Waterman Elementary, Thomas Harrison Middle, and Skyline Middle Schools. Report cards and yearly test scores are tracked.
If a child is struggling behaviorally or socially, the whole family is involved in finding solutions and if necessary, referrals can be made for help from community agencies. All children are involved in an anti-bullying program. Middle school students are engaged in activities which specifically teach manners, critical decision-making skills, and leadership.
Our Kids, Our Care, Our Future
Prior to Second Home’s existence, Spotswood Elementary School did not meet federal and state testing requirements.
Since then, the school has met those standards. In addition, 90% of students attending Second Home have increased to a higher reading level or grade. Grades, attendance and school enthusiasm are up, while truancy is down.
One child has commented,
“I’m not afraid the teacher will call on me. I get help with my homework and now I know all the answers.”
Second Home provides long lasting benefits by helping children who were previously at risk of getting into trouble because they were home alone. Prevention of drug use, gang activity and early pregnancy, as well inspiration for success in school, may give hope to these children for a step up from poverty and a more promising future.