Local high school program for pregnant students and parents being considered for resettlement

The Calgary School Board is taking another step toward closing the school site of a unique program that provides secondary education and child care for pregnant teens and young mothers.

The Louise Dean Center operates out of a 75-year-old building in the northwestern community of West Hillhurst, but council officials have proposed that the school and its operations be moved to Jack James High School in the southwestern community. east of Forest Lawn.

The public school board voted on Tuesday to put the proposal through a public comment process.

There are 47 students at the Louise Dean Center.

PREOCCUPATION OF THE ELDERS

A graduate of the program says he is concerned about moving to a new location and sharing a building with another high school.

“It doesn’t make sense. It’s just a higher risk. There are moms in strollers and buses and we don’t want our kids exposed to that type of environment,” Andrea Hernandez said. -Urbina.

She enrolled at Louise Dean School when her son, Isa Malik Aubry, was two months old. She graduated from high school last May.

She says the school’s strong sense of community would suffer from a change in location.

“We are all teenage mothers, we all have the same goal and it is sad to know that the school will have to close and move to another school,” she said.

Hernandez-Urbina, now an eyelash extension artist, credits the center with additional lessons in counseling and family skills.

CHANGING TRENDS

Kindred, which runs childcare services and also offers tuition and counseling at the Louise Dean Centre, says the school’s needs have changed over the 50 years of the partnership.

“The overall teen pregnancy rate in Alberta is down. So we’re seeing a corresponding drop in the number of students we’re able to serve,” said Jessica Cope Williams, co-CEO of Kindred.

She added, “This is an opportunity for us to reassess the best ways to respond to the changing trend and continue to meet the needs of young parents.”

In an emailed statement Wednesday, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) said “the potential transfer of the Louise Dean program to Jack James High School will increase academic opportunities for students and their partners, as well as ongoing support of our partners.”

He continued: “If the proposed relocation is approved, staff at the Louise Dean Center, Jack James High School, Kindred and AHS will work together during the 2023-24 school year to ensure the creation personalized and individual transition plans for each student that will address their learning, support and safety in the new environment.”

FOREST LAWN OFFERS

Council officials said the current site, built in 1947, needs $17 million in repairs, while renovations to the Jack James High School building are estimated at $5.6 million, at a public meeting tuesday.

The proposal would see a section of the building outfitted with equipment providing exclusive access to Louise Dean students and staff, and possibly parental partners.

The renovation plan also includes a day care centre, a new outdoor playground, medical examination rooms, counseling offices and expanded classrooms, among other changes.

Additionally, board officials say the move would cut travel time for the majority of students who live in the south or northeast.

“We were looking for closer proximity to where students live, to reduce travel times,” said Dany Breton, CBE’s facilities and environmental services superintendent.

“This location can continue to provide the individualized sheltered programming and supports available at the current location,” said Andrea Holowka, superintendent of school improvement at CBE.

The EPC statement adds:

“Forest Lawn is a thriving community, the City of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and other partners have invested a significant amount of resources in redevelopment of the area. In the immediate area of ​​the school Secondary Jack James is an Alberta Health Services clinic.. In addition, the community is home to a newly renovated public library, with child-friendly activities and access to the Calgary East Health Center.

The additional 47 pupils would bring the student population to 93 per cent of Jack James School’s capacity, according to the CBE board report’s public agenda for the September 27 regular meeting.

The target set for the relocation is the 2024-2025 academic year.

The CBE has approached Alberta Education for capital funding for the proposed move.

Ryan H. Bowman