Indications are that the Blaine County School District will not eliminate its on-campus daycare center for teenage mothers, even though the district board of trustees has looked closely this spring at the cost of the program and its utilization by high school students.
“It’s not going to go away,” district Business Manager Mike Chatterton said in an interview Wednesday, basing his remark on a discussion with the board of trustees and administrators at a June 10 school board meeting. “I think a lot of people think it’s a very important program. We just have to make it feasible to where it’s not a financial problem.
“Based on the board’s comments, we will have it next year. I just need to put the funding together.”
The issue of concern to the school board is the cost of the program and its utilization by student mothers.
Chatterton told the board at the June 10 meeting that utilization by teenage mothers in the School District is about 100 percent.
Regarding funding, Chatterton told the board that the daycare costs about $35,000 per year for staffing. He said the state of Idaho reimburses the district $319 per month per student enrolled, which helps offset the cost to the district.
Established in 2011, the program has helped about a dozen teenage mothers graduate from high school. However, for the 2013-2014 school year, the program had four participants at the beginning of the year but lost all but one of them a few months into the year.
With that in mind, Chatterton said that the district’s administrative council, which considers how to divvy up staff and resources as part of the budget cycle, looked seriously this spring at eliminating the program and contracting services with a private daycare center, hopefully one close to Silver Creek High School in Hailey, where the daycare center is now located.
However, since that time, Chatterton said he has learned that at least four girls plan to use the program in the coming school year.
“Six would be optimal,” Chatterton said. “Even if we had only four in the program, that would justify it as well. I just don’t want to be in a position of only having one student.
“There are other options we could do, but the options aren’t really good for the students or the district.”
As an alternative high school, Silver Creek is required by the Idaho State Department of Education to provide daycare opportunities for teenage mothers. However, an alternative high school is not required to provide on-campus daycare and has the option of contracting out for services.
Teen parenting center
Officially known as the Silver Creek High School Teen Parenting Center, the daycare center was somewhat controversial when the school board narrowly approved by a 3-2 vote its establishment in the summer of 2011. Then, there was abundant public comment, both for and against the center’s establishment.
Controversy seemed absent from the June 10 school board meeting, when the daycare center was discussed in detail. Even some former foes seem to have changed their minds.
“When this daycare center was first proposed, I was not in favor of it,” said Hulen Meadows resident Barbara Browning. “I’ve changed my mind completely. Please just keep it. Do it. Don’t worry about it.”
The only other public comment came from former Trustee Julie Dahlgren, a staunch supporter who chaired the school board that approved establishment of the daycare center in 2011. She described the daycare center as still “near and dear to my heart.”
The school board also heard strong support from Assistant Superintendent John Blackman, who is currently serving as interim superintendent. He said the daycare center is vital for helping teenage mothers graduate from high school.
“I’m the first person in my family to finish high school,” Blackman said. “My mother dropped out at 16 to have me.”
Blackman further explained that whether a person graduates or not from high school can have repercussions for several generations. If one person in a family graduates from high school, that fact can set a pattern for the future.
“What’s cool about it is we are addressing those issues where before those girls would disappear,” Blackman said. “Even when I was in high school, when a girl got pregnant you wouldn’t see her again. So it’s really nice that we are providing that opportunity for them to finish their education and to be able to provide for their families.”
Also supportive of the daycare center was Silver Creek Principal Mike Glenn, who said he knows of a girl who is now pregnant and will be a sophomore next year. She lives several miles north of Ketchum and will be unable to attend high school if daycare services are not available.
“It’s not about a number; it’s about a young girl trying to finish her education,” Glenn said.
Trustee Elizabeth Schwerdtle said the board needs to be cognizant of the cost, but described it as a “small thing in the greater scheme of things.”
“It doesn’t sound to me like anyone on the board is trying to get rid of the center by any stretch,” Schwerdtle said. “I think there’s a greater need than ever.”
Schwerdtle asked her fellow board members if any of them disagreed with that statement. None of them replied.