The Blaine County School District board of trustees Tuesday evening narrowly approved establishing a daycare center this coming school year to serve student parents at Wood River and Silver Creek high schools.
The vote was 3-2, with board Chairwoman Julie Dahlgren and Trustees Steve Guthrie and Daniel Parke voting to approve the measure. Trustees Paul Bates and Kathryn Graves voted against it.
Both Graves and Bates said they are in favor of helping teenage parents continue with their education, but that the daycare proposal needed further study and other alternatives needed to be explored.
"I think that helping our students, be that they are pregnant or have autism, should be our number one priority," Bates said. "But I don't know if the program at hand achieves that. I want to help those kids as much as anyone, but I don't know that the program we have is the best that we can do."
"I am not ready to act on this tonight," said Graves. "I agree that our main goal is to help these girls stay in school, but I too wonder it this is the way to go. I'd like to see some other options."
The daycare proposal was brought to the school board in May by district Superintendent Lonnie Barber, who then described the issue as "cost neutral." He said that costs could be offset by the Idaho Child Care Program, available through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which provides partial child-care funding for qualifying young mothers. If a student drops out of school, then the district loses about $5,000 per student per year.
He said Tuesday that he's not certain of the costs, but that other school districts in Idaho with student daycare centers report that they cost little or nothing to operate.
"I can't give you an exact number until we do it for a year and experience it," Barber said. "When you talk to other school districts, they tell us that these are programs that don't cost extra money."
Barber said the Idaho Department of Education doesn't keep statistics on the number of school districts that have daycare centers for student parents but that research conducted by staff found that there are at least 15 in Idaho.
He said the new Blaine County daycare center will likely serve about nine students.
The district plans to spend $30,000 to remodel a portion of the district-owned Community Campus in Hailey to accommodate the center. By locating the center at the Community Campus, it would serve students from both nearby Wood River High School and the Silver Creek alternative school.
The school board heard nine public comments prior to voting on the measure. Three were opposed and six were in favor.
The proposal withstood an attempt by Bates to suspend action. He made a motion to that effect that was seconded by Graves. The motion was defeated 3-2.
Dahlgren, Guthrie and Parke said they were against any delay.
"I really don't think we need that much more time," Dahlgren said.
"One of the reasons we're on the board is we're elected to make decisions," Parke said. "I just don't think we're going to get any better information than we have now."
"What's best for the kids is to get kids through our system," said Guthrie. "It's our responsibility to do our research, to do our diligence, which we have done, and I think this is a win-win for kids."
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org