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Archive for Friday, April 1, 1994

CHILD CARE AT LHS MULLED

April 1, 1994

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Lawrence could see some debate over school-based child care as a solution to helping teen-age parents graduate.

It was a pretty big day for Mandy Wales, a senior at Lawrence Alternative High School.

As part of a class unit on the 1960s, Wales was videotaping a simulated newscast about that decade's drug culture. The video was a culminating project and accounted for about half of her nine-week's credit.

Everything was running smoothly until Kylee awoke from her nap. As Kylee's mother, Wales knew the 2-month-old baby wasn't going to quiet down until she'd been fed.

Wales' mother usually cared for Kylee, but this day she was working the day shift instead of the night shift.

"It would have been a big help to have child care at the school that day," Wales said, recalling an episode that occurred last month.

A school-based child care center for teen-age parents is one concept being considered by the Lawrence school board.

With a lack of space at Lawrence High School, officials are looking for other sites that could house the program. Centennial School, a few blocks south of LHS, is one possibility.

In August, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department reported 15 pregnancies at LHS and five pregnancies at Lawrence junior high schools.

Sister Frances Russell, who chairs the LHS Child Care Center Committee, said affordable child care close to young parents could be a deciding factor in whether they graduate.

But some people are concerned about the message that school-based child care would send. School Board Vice President Jerry Hannah said some patrons might see the message as "it's OK to get pregnant because we'll try to take care of you."

Hannah said he personally would feel uncomfortable having a child care center at the high school itself, which could be a possibility if voters approve a bond issue for a second high school this fall.

He would like the district to explore all its options and receive plenty of public comment before establishing school-based child care, he said.

Wales' mother, Terry Wales, said fears that school-based child care would encourage pregnancies are unwarranted.

"You don't get pregnant because there's a day care," she said. "I don't think any teen-ager would use this as an excuse to have a baby."

Russell thinks school-based child care could have the opposite effect.

"Our real hope is that it can help prevent a pregnancy for some young people when the notion of having to care for an infant is no longer a romantic illusion," she said. "When students see parents carrying diaper bags, it kind of dispels the myth that this is great stuff to have a child."

Russell said the child care wouldn't be a hand-out. Teen-age parents using the center would pay a fee based on what they could afford, and those parents would be required to volunteer an hour each day at the center.

The committee presented its proposal to the Lawrence school board in March. The committee will return with a more detailed plan in May.

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