GLADE SPRING, Va. — When a Meadowview woman had trouble finding caregivers for her young grandchildren, she did what any grandmother would like to do.
She started her own preschool and day care to help her own daughters and other mothers in the area receive reliable child care.
Alison Burress, 48, has opened Itty Bitties Academy & Study Hall Kidz Club in the former Glade Christian Academy building in downtown Glade Spring.
“It was really hard to find people to keep the grandkids, especially ages birth to 2 years old. If I saw the need in the community, I figured other families were experiencing those same needs, too,” said Burress.
The child care center is currently a day care for ages 2½ to 4. An after-school program is offered to students ages 5-12 who attend Meadowview Elementary and Glade Spring Middle School.
The center, which employs two teachers and two aids, operates 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Burress is planning to renovate an empty wing in the building, which will allow her to accept infants to 2½-year-old children. She is currently licensed to accept 30 children, but once the infant wing is completed, regulations will be modified.
She also wants to convert an upstairs room into a larger after-school meeting area so that she can accept more school-age children. Eventually, she plans to offer tutoring and mentoring for the children.
“That’s how these little ones learn — by talking and doing. There is a big need for good-quality child care.”
Worth the wait
The day care has taken Burress four years to bring to fruition.
“It’s not something I came up with on a whim,” she said.
In the back of her mind, the business owner remembered a day care she worked at in North Carolina when she was a teenager.
“I kept thinking about what a great experience it was. I can still recall some of the little kids,” she said.
Those positive memories gave her even more incentive to make her plan work.
“I had to jump through several hoops to get the facility open.”
To better prepare for her new venture, Burress went back to school, enrolling in childhood classes at Liberty University. The classes gave her the additional hours she needed to be her own director and administrator. Earlier, she received a degree in paralegal technology from Surry Community College in Dobson, North Carolina in 1997.
“I was serious about this, and I knew I had to back myself up with my education.
“A lot of the delays I encountered had to do with finding a building, and some of it was due to the pandemic,” she said.
The building had to be remodeled to accommodate the young children. “We did a lot of cleaning. One room had to have a new floor installed,” Burress said.
“We painted, added molding and beadboard. There was quite a bit of hard work going into this building.”
A bright future
On her desk sit two composition books filled with details about the long process of opening the facility.
“I started keeping these books four years ago. Look at me now,” she said, excited that she received her license to operate more than a week ago.
Parents need to be aware that there are a number of financial programs available to help pay for tuition for day cares, she said.
She believes the future looks bright for the facility.
“I see the building full of kids — happy and learning. I will love watching them grow.
“I can visualize infants going through the entire program until they age out and one day coming back here to volunteer. That would be awesome.”
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.