Keeping young parents in school is the goal of a child-care center planned for Lawrence High School.
Teen-age parents could attend class and be near their children if a child-care plan gains final approval Monday.
Sister Frances Russell, who heads the Lawrence High School child-care committee, will ask the Lawrence school board to approve a proposal establishing a child-care center in a portable building on the south end of the high school campus. Grant and licensing deadlines loom.
"I think every effort is going to be made to continue the message that having children is not cool when you're in high school," Russell said. "But for children involved in the situation, we don't want to lose them."
Between July 1 and Dec. 30, 13 pregnant and parenting teens from Lawrence High School sought services from the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, reported Diane Pope, a registered nurse in the department's maternal and infant program.
Six local junior high-aged students sought services in that same time period. The statistics are the most recent available.
During the 1993-94 school year, 35 parenting and pregnant teens sought services. Of those, 26 were from LHS and nine were from Lawrence junior highs.
Russell envisions a small, cooperative intervention service. A licensed care provider will run a day-care center, and the home economics department will teach a class about child development.
Betty Currie, who will be the faculty advisor for the class "Experiences with Infants," said 17 students have pre-enrolled in the course, which counts as one hour of independent study credit. Students would work in the center during any one of six school periods.
Currie did not know whether all 17 who signed up were parents or pregnant. The program is available to students at LHS, Lawrence Alternative High School and the junior highs.
The committee has recommended Children's Learning Center Inc., 205 N. Mich., as the care provider. The center is a not-for-profit corporation that operates an after-school day-care program at Broken Arrow School.
Gail Davis, center director, agreed that the program would help young parents stay in school and teach them to be responsible parents.
Several months ago, the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services approved a $40,000 grant for materials and equipment to set up the program.
Once the center is up and running, the care provider must pay salaries. That cost will be borne by parent fees, Davis said, and most high school students would be eligible for SRS reimbursements.
As in after-school child-care programs at elementary schools, Davis said, the school board has been clear that it would provide space but not extra funding.
"That's all we're expecting, period," she said.
The board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the district Service Center, 3705 Clinton Pkwy.
An example set
The committee used a child-care program in Atchison as a model.
Frances Strieby, executive director of Atchison Child Care Center, said its program has not required out-of-pocket funding from the district so far. The district provided space and allowed participation in the school lunch program.
Strieby said seven teen mothers would graduate this year.
"These girls have good attendance and good report cards," she said.