A center at Lawrence High School provides child care for students' children.
Ashley Van Ness walks into the Parent Child Learning Center, takes off her shoes and washes her hands. Then she heads for her daughter, Kelsey, who soon will be 9 months old.
Ashley, a 15-year-old Lawrence High School sophomore, is among four LHS students who have children enrolled in the center on the school's campus at 2017 La.
Usually, Ashley holds Kelsey for a while, and then the baby sometimes will want down, to play with toys.
Each week, Ashley spends four hours of her school time with her daughter at the Parent Child Learning Center, which opened in September in a portable classroom on the south side of LHS. If their children are awake, the mothers interact with them. If not, the teen mothers read literature on parenting or work with other children.
The child-care center provides a van that takes Ashley and Kelsey to and from the LHS campus. That's a real plus, Ashley said. When she was a West Junior High School ninth-grader last year, Ashley used an in-home day-care provider in her neighborhood and walked to school.
"There was no problem with transportation," she said.
But because she doesn't drive, transportation to and from the high school could get complicated -- without the van. The vehicle even comes equipped with car seats for the children, which is handy.
"Those get heavy," Ashley said. "You'd have all your school books and her -- and a car seat."
Another important factor is that the Parent Child Learning Center accepts Social and Rehabilitation Service funding, which her former child-care provider didn't.
Students who don't have children also spend time in the center, providing care for the four infants and three toddlers enrolled there. Those students are enrolled in "Experiences with Infants and Toddlers."
"I think it's a good way for other teen-agers to see this and see what it's really like being a mom," Ashley said.
It can be difficult. Now that Kelsey is moving around, getting homework done can be a challenge for Ashley.
But both Ashley and another teen-age mother, Gwen Edwards, said Lawrence High's new seminar period provides time for them to do some homework or get help from teachers.
"That really helps a lot," said Gwen, a 17-year-old junior.
If Gwen's son, Rashaun Farmer, weren't at PCLC, he likely would stay with his grandmother. But she lives across town from Gwen, so being able to bring the 6-month-old baby to the center is a real convenience. And it provides peace of mind.
"I just feel that he's safe," Gwen said.
Patti McCulley, PCLC program director, is pleased with the first few weeks of operation at the center, which is managed by Children's Learning Center Inc., a longtime child-care provider in Lawrence. One of the children at the center is the child of a teacher, while the mother of two other children is involved in the school district's Even Start Program.
"I feel it's working really well," McCulley said. "I'm really impressed with how responsible these girls are."