The Lawrence school board approved a plan Monday to start a child care center this fall in a trailer on the south end of the Lawrence High School campus. The center will serve teen-age parents and their children.
"I'm thrilled," said Ashley Van Ness, a ninth-grader at West Junior High School. Ashley has a 12-week-old daughter, Kelsey, and plans to use the center next year.
The 5-2 vote gave the board's final consent to a proposal conceived by a committee of about 15 local agencies and headed by Sister Frances Russell of Catholic Social Services. Location was the final stumbling block.
Board members Jerry Hannah and Tom Murray opposed putting it on the high school site, concerned that teen-age moms would parade babies in the hallways and send the wrong message about teen parenthood.
Murray also wondered what would happen in 1997, when the second high school opened.
"A 'Yes' vote here means that this is inside the high school building (in 1997)," he said.
Russell said licensing and safety concerns would keep the center and children away from the main hallways.
"This will probably always be quite a contained, small program," she said.
Based on the size of the portable building, licensing requires a center capacity of nine infants and 10 toddlers, said Gail Davis, executive director of Children's Learning Center Inc., which will manage the center.
Organizers received a $40,000 grant to start the program and will depend on fees and Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services reimbursements for operating costs. The district is providing access to a double-wide portable building and a parenting class.
Ashley said paying for child care during the hours she's in school has been expensive, and she and her family had been concerned about whether she could afford to finish school.
"My parents have been really supportive," she said.
Having the child-care center at the high school would make staying in school that much easier, she said.