Teen moms worried about changes in Calgary schooling program
The Calgary Board of Education is taking another step toward closing the school site of a unique program that provides high school education and childcare for pregnant teens and young mothers.
The Lewis Dean Center operates from a 75-year-old building in the northwestern community of West Hillhurst, but board officials have proposed relocating the school and its operations to Jack James High School in the southeastern community of Forest Lawn.
The public school board voted on Tuesday to put the proposal in a public consultation process.
The Lewis Dean Center has 47 students.
One graduate of the program says there are concerns about moving to a new location and sharing a building with another high school.
Andrea Hernandez-Urbina said, “It doesn’t make sense. It’s just a high risk. There are mothers in strollers and buses and we don’t want babies to be exposed to that type of environment.”
She attended Lewis Dean School when her son Isa Malik Aubry was two months old. She completed her high school diploma last May.
She says the school’s strong sense of community will be influenced by the change of location.
“We are all teen moms, we all have the same goal and it is sad to know that the school will have to be closed and transferred to another school,” she said.
Hernandez-Urbina, now an eyelash extension artist, credits the center for additional counseling and family skills courses.
Kindred, which operates childcare services and also provides courses and counseling at the Lewis Dean Center, says the needs of the school have changed in the 50-year partnership.
“The overall teen pregnancy rate in Alberta is declining. That’s why we’re seeing a drop in the number of students we’re able to serve,” said Jessica Cope Williams, Kindred co-CEO.
He adds, “This is an opportunity for us to reevaluate how we are best able to respond to changing trends and meet the needs of young parents.”
In an emailed statement Wednesday, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) says, “The potential move to the Jack James High School of Lewis Dean program will increase educational opportunities for both students and their colleagues, as well as our partners.” There will also be continued support from
It continued, “If the proposed transfer is approved, staff at the Lewis Dean Center, Jack James High School, Kindred and AHS will work together during the 2023-24 school year to ensure that each student has Create personalized and individual transition plans for them. These plans will address their learning, support and protection in the new environment.”
Prasad in the Forest Lawn
Board officials said the current site, built in 1947, needed $17 million for repairs, while renovations to the Jack James High School building were estimated to cost $5.6 million during a public meeting on Tuesday.
The proposal will see a portion of the building equipped with hardware to provide sole access to Lewis Dean’s students and staff, and potential parent partners.
The renovation plan also includes a childcare centre, a new outdoor play area, medical examination rooms, expanded counseling offices and classrooms, among other changes.
Also, board officials say that the transfer will cut down on travel time for most of the students living in South or North East.
“We were looking for closer proximity to the students’ residences to minimize travel times,” said Danny Breton, CBE superintendent of facilities and environmental services.
“This location can continue to provide personalized shelter programming and support available at the current location,” said Andrea Holovka, CBE superintendent of school improvement.
The CBE statement adds:
“Forest Lawn is a growing community, the City of Calgary, Alberta Health Services, and other partners have poured a significant amount of resources into the redevelopment of the area. Immediately Jack James High School is an Alberta healthcare clinic in the area. Also children in the community are in the community. A recently renovated public library with friendly activities and access to the East Calgary Health Center.”
According to the public agenda of the September 27 regular meeting of the CBSE Board, the additional 47 students will take the student population to 93 percent of the capacity of the Jack James School.
The target set for the transfer is the 2024-2025 academic year.
CBE has applied to Alberta Education for capital funding for the rehabilitation proposal.