Wednesday, May 18, 2011

District considers high school daycare

Program would help teen mothers stay in school


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District is considering establishing a daycare center on school property to help teenager mothers stay in school.

"When a girl becomes pregnant and she drops out of school, chances are greatly reduced that she'll ever come back and graduate," district Superintendent Lonnie Barber said at a May 10 school board meeting.

The school board seemed generally supportive of the idea, but did not act on the matter at the May 10 meeting because some board members requested more information before a formal vote.

Barber, who proposed the idea, said he hopes to get a daycare center operational at the district owned Community Campus before the start of the next school year. By locating at the Community Campus, Barber said, the daycare center could serve teenager mothers at both Wood River High School and the alternative Silver Creek High School.

Barber said having the daycare center near the two high schools would allow mothers to look in on their children and free them from stress so they could concentrate on studies.

"The great thing about providing daycare for our pregnant mothers is it really is relatively cost neutral to us," Barber said.

Barber explained that the Idaho Child Care Program, available through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, provides funding for young mothers for child daycare while the mothers are working or attending school.

Further, Barber said, the costs of operating a daycare could likely be offset by state funding through the average-daily-attendance formula. For each full-time student, the school district receives about $5,000 per year. If a student drops out of school, Barber said, that money is lost.

He estimated that about 10 girls a year would take advantage of the program, at a savings in state funding of about $50,000.

Barber said the first year would be a pilot program.

"That's what we want to propose to you—to see how many girls would take advantage of it and what the costs would be," he said.

"I really feel very strongly that we should go ahead as quickly as possible," said board Chair Julie Dahlgren. "I'm so excited about the idea that we're going to meet those girls' needs and help them stay in school.

"It's hard for them to be in school without daycare. They can't afford it, their mothers can't or won't do it for them or the fathers have left them."

"I think the benefits are far reaching," said Trustee Steve Guthrie. "Instead of taking to poverty, we can help them stay in school."

Trustees Paul Bates and Kathryn Graves said they wanted information on pregnancy rates and the number of students who have dropped out of school as a result of pregnancy.

"I'm not saying it's not something we should do, I just want to make an informed decision," Graves said.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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