Board rejects high school as site for day care center


A coalition of social service agencies working to help pregnant teen-agers is planning to open its own day care center this fall, even though the county school board has refused to allow the center at Westminster High School.

Anticipating a negative vote on their request for a portable classroom next to the high school, organizers already had three alternative sites in mind, said Barb Rodgers, director of health education at the county Health Department.

The sites are in the Westminster area and would be rented or donated, said Christy Lynch, coordinator of Raising Hopes, the project designed by the coalition to provide a comprehensive approach to dealing with teen-age pregnancy.

The Carroll Coalition on Teen Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention is made up of about 10 local agencies.

Organizers had asked the Board of Education to allow the day care center at Westminster High because that site would be convenient for teen-age mothers and they would be less likely to drop out of school.

Of girls who get pregnant, 73 percent drop out, according to 1993 Carroll Health Department statistics.

Health officials say 109 girls ages 15 to 19 gave birth in Carroll in 1993, the latest year for which statistics are available. There were 77 abortions in Carroll in 1993 for women under age 20. The day care center will serve a maximum of nine infants and #F toddlers.

Mandy Remmey, a Westminster High senior, brought her 15-month-old daughter, Victoria Hogan, to the school board meeting Wednesday at Mount Airy Elementary.

Many teen-age mothers need more support to stay in school, she said.

"I'm fortunate. I have family support, but a lot of kids don't," Ms. Remmey said.

School board members gave several reasons for not wanting the day care center at the school.

Board members Gary V. Bauer, Joseph D. Mish Jr. and C. Scott Stone said the schools would be creating another entitlement program by opening a day care center.

"I don't think it's government's role to provide this service," Mr. Stone said.

"I think we've gone overboard," Mr. Mish said.

Mr. Bauer said, "I view this as another social program, and it destroys families in the process. We can't be the family for these girls."

Board President Ann M. Ballard said the board did not have the $125,000 necessary to place the portable building at Westminster High. Families should be helping the teen-agers, she said.

"It's another problem we're taking on as a school system, and we have enough to handle now," she said.

In addition to denying permission for the portable building, the board voted unanimously against two other proposals: providing transportation to and from school for teen-age mothers and their children in the Westminster area; and allowing teen-age mothers in other school districts to attend Westminster High.

Superintendent Brian Lockard said the school system will continue to work with the coalition to assist teen-age mothers.

L "We're not about to give up on these young ladies," he said.

Carroll has a higher rate of births to teen-agers than more heavily populated areas such as Howard and Montgomery counties, Ms. Lynch said. In 1992, the latest year for which such statistics are available, there were 26.5 births per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19, Health Department statistics show.

In Howard, the rate was 16 births per 1,000, and in Montgomery, it was 24.5 births per 1,000.

The Raising Hopes project is operating with a $68,000 two-year grant it received in October from the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy, Ms. Rodgers said.

The project has a number of goals, including: encouraging teen-agers to delay having sex, supporting families as the primary educators on sexuality and providing community resources and services for families.

Organizers plan to open a Teen Parent Support Center to offer day care, job training, counseling and parent education. The main goal of the center is to give teen-age parents the support they need to stay in school.

Ms. Lynch said the coalition has applied for a $50,000 Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is federal money passed on to the state, to help set up the center.

Money to operate the center would come from fees paid by the girls' parents, state vouchers from students who qualify for them and grant money.

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