Northside’s child care program on hold

School requests building waiver for child care site

The Lafayette Parish school system has applied for a waiver after a children’s bathroom didn’t pass muster during an inspection of the child care center it plans to open as part of a teen parenting program on the campus of Northside High School.

The program will teach parenting, career and college prep skills to teen parents while providing child care to their children.

The classes for the teen parents began in January, but an inspection of the portable building that will house the child care center stalled the opening of services for infants and toddlers, said June Inhern, assistant director of early childhood for the school system.

Inhern said an inspection from the Department of Health and Hospitals placed the program on hold because the walls do not go all the way to the ceiling in the bathroom area designated for the children. The school system has asked for a waiver since the children in the program are under the age of 4, she said.

“We’re asking them to consider that we are not a typical child care center. We do not take children past the age of 4,” she said. “We’re asking them to consider the fact that we are a teaching facility.”

Inhern said it’s possible that the child care services won’t begin until the new school year begins in August.

In January, seven teen mothers began the program, though 13 had registered.

Inhern said some of the teen mothers were unable to participate in the program because of a lack of child care and a few opted for an online program, eCampus, that the district also offers.

As part of the teen parenting program, the students took a 30-minute course each morning that teaches various aspects of parenting, ranging from child development to safety. Inhern said community partners have helped out with the program, including University of Louisiana at Lafayette nursing students, volunteering time to offer expertise to the young mothers.

College and career readiness is also an aspect of the program to prepare the young women for life after high school, Inhern said.

“We’re giving them information to empower them as parents and good citizens,” she said.

The program was designed for 16 students and their children, though the district initially proposed 32 seats for students and their children, but cut the program in half after School Board members rejected the $205,000 needed to renovate two portable buildings for the program. Board members later supported spending $100,000 to renovate one portable building that would be used as the child care center.