Tupelo leaders consider program for school-aged mothers

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo School District is considering a program that would provide classes and child care to school-aged mothers living in the district.
“One of the things we have talked about is creating educational options for students,” Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill said. “The data shows there is a significant number of teens or student mothers in Lee County. One of the reasons we have dropouts with our female students is that they are teen mothers or are about to be teen mothers. We want to have that option to recapture those students.”
In 2008, there were about 60 mothers in Lee County between 12 and 19 years old, according to statistics obtained by Hill.
Hill presented the idea to the school board in March, and an exploratory committee currently is studying the possibility of adding the program. The goal would be to have it in place for the new school year that begins Aug. 4.
A location for the program also is being worked out, although the Link Centre is a strong possibility.
Hill predicts that 10 to 20 students would participate initially. He estimated that the cost would be about $20,000 per year. The district would cover that cost by reallocating money currently being spent on those students. Also, if more students are staying in school and enrollment is higher, the district will receive more state funding.
“It is another dropout prevention and recovery program that Tupelo needs,” Hill said, “This is one more effort to curb that problem.”
The program would include high school classes and special parenting education instruction. The students would attend classes together and support one another. Day care workers also would be able to provide advice about child care.
According to a document submitted at the school board’s March 30 meeting, the program would “give school-aged mothers the help they need to have healthy babies, finish high school and become self-sufficient, responsible parents.”
Any student in the district who becomes a mother would be able to participate.
“It is not a program just to house those mothers but also to enhance their parenting skills,” Hill said.
The program would not be mandatory for mothers in Tupelo schools but would be an option available for them. Students enrolled in the school-aged mothers initiative would be able to stay in the program until they graduate or to eventually return to Tupelo High School, if they choose.
“We just wanted to give them another option if the high-school setting isn’t working for them,” Hill said.
Hill said leaders also are discussing partnerships with other districts.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.