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Children's Home opens new school

Children's Home opens new school

ENTERPRISE – Today, the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home (FUMCH) opened a new private school on its main campus near DeLand.

The school is an extension of the current on-campus education program, Aldersgate Academy. The addition will allow student residents to participate in a unique, engaging academic environment that is tailored to meet intellectual and social-emotional needs.

Three students at the Florida UM Children's Home check out a new classroom
Students at the Florida United Methodist Children's Home check out one of the new classrooms that open today, Aug. 18, on the home's campus in Volusia County. Photos from Mark Nelson.

The new school will have four classrooms, with up to eight students in each classroom, which will allow for more one-on-one academic instruction. In addition to academic instruction, the school will focus on social emotional learning and its five key elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills and responsible decision-making. In addition, each student will move through a rigorous grade-level assessment process to determine necessary remediation, while following state standards.

“Students who have difficulties with relationship-building will become more socially aware as they work in project-based learning groups,” said Mary Cortez, the new school’s director.

“Students who are below grade level in subjects will have individualized academic support to close achievement gaps. This school will be unlike any other school these youth have attended, as this school is being created just for them by people who know them and love them.”

The goal is to have each student achieve self-awareness, use self-management techniques to control emotions and become more socially aware of others’ feelings. This will increase overall relationship skills by developing respect, trust, rapport and responsible decision-making to be successful in school and life.

Through one-on-one attention and learning gains, FUMCH will be able to reach, teach and get the students back on track toward graduation.

Becky Dotson, chief executive officer of the Children’s Home, sees the school as a critical component of the organization’s mission.

Students and teachers in a gym assembly
Students and teachers at the Children's Home school, an extension of the home's Aldersgate Academy, meet in the gym before the academic year begins.

“This school will be a starting point for us to rewrite the academic story of many of our children, which will transform their present and future circumstances and ignite a love of learning in order for them to achieve success.”

The Children’s Home trustees have worked closely with school leadership to develop a strong learning plan that will strategically align with local and state educational standards.

“I am excited for these student residents who are receiving such great care,” said FUMCH trustee Bonnie Bullard, a former Hillsborough County Schools’ educator and administrator.

“When the need for a different educational program was identified, the Board of Trustees wanted to make it happen. We are all proud of the staff for such an awesome undertaking.”

The school will operate according to the Volusia County Schools’ calendar and will follow academic standards prescribed by the state of Florida.

The academic year is off to a good start, but the school can still use some help. The Children’s Home suggests the following ways people can help:

• Purchase individual, grade-appropriate school supplies.
• Make a financial contribution to FUMCH for the purchase of classroom needs and additional school supplies.
• Offer your place of business as a back-to-school supplies drop-off site.

For more information, contact Mark Nelson at (407) 222-1040 or email

 * Mark Nelson is vice president of development for the Florida United Methodist Children's Home.