The perennially touchy subject of teen pregnancy seems to have been around as long as there have been teenagers, but it seems that the idea of public schools openly getting involved in the issue has only recently been embraced by some.
Jennifer Massey, Early Childhood Education director at Gordon Central High School, said the daycare at GCHS has been open since 1991, and although it is now a welcome program, this wasn’t always the case.
“I think people were very cautious when we first opened,” she said. “A lot of people thought we were promoting it (teen pregnancy), but we’re not.”
The daycare center offers a place for Gordon County schools’ teenage parents, along with county teachers, to leave their children during the day at a discounted rate while parents are in class. Massey said the weekly rate for students depends on their income.
Currently, the center has 22 children under the age of three, four of whom belong to teenage parents. Massey said although the facility is close to capacity, the number of teen pregnancies in Gordon County schools has actually decreased over the years.
According to Georgia Family Connections, 136 teenagers under the age of 18 became teen moms in 2008 (the latest data available) in Gordon County, a decrease from 154 teens who gave birth in 2006.
The convenience of being able to leave one’s children to be cared for at work or school is not offered by every Georgia high school.
Having the daycare on site has actually brought in new students and teachers, like teen mother Jacqueline Kinuthine, who transferred from Kennesaw High School, and one Gordon Central teacher Massey mentioned.
“Some teachers wouldn’t work here, if they (Gordon Central) didn’t have this,” said Massey.
Aside from her responsibilities at the daycare, she also teaches classes to prepare students who wish to become Early Childhood Education teachers or professional childcare providers (i.e. work in daycare, Pre-Kindergarten classes or nursery school).
“Students here take children education classes to learn about early childhood education and go from here to get their ECE degree,” said Jenny Harp who works at the Gordon Central daycare center.
Previously, the center just offered classes to teach soon-to-be parents, or current parents how to parent effectively. Massey said she feels offering Early Childhood education classes will prepare all students for college courses.
“We have kind of gotten away from the teen pregnancy thing now,” she said. “They’ve (county schools) changed the pathway, now I’m teaching the foundations of ECE (Early Childhood Education).”
Massey said in her classes, she uses children from the daycare as real life examples. She compares it to “having a car in an automotive class.”
“You’ve got real children to work with, versus some school programs that requires students to carry around a fake baby,” she explained.
“It’s almost like birth control itself,” added Harp. “I know it’s a big awakening when they realize what it is to actually take care of a baby.”
The early childhood education classes are is available to all students in the Gordon County School System.
Although Calhoun City Schools do not have a daycare for teen parents to leave their children during the day, Roberta Charbonneau, director of Gordon County Family Connections, said the school system is working with a program called “On Point” to help teens stay abstinent.
Charbonneau said On Point is a youth development program founded in 1991 and is based in Chattanooga. The program helps teens abstain from risky behavior, including sexual activity, drug and alcohol use and violence.