Consolidating teen parent program at JCPS could bring efficienci - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Consolidating teen parent program at JCPS could bring efficiencies and headaches

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Public hearing at South Park TAPP Public hearing at South Park TAPP

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – For 19-year-old Tara Dobrzynski, Jefferson County Public Schools’ plan to consolidate its teenage parent program, or TAPP, at one location is a daunting prospect.

She’s one of the 77 students throughout the district enrolled in TAPP, an alternative program meant to help pregnant students and young mothers earn their diplomas.

JCPS leaders held a forum at the South Park TAPP on Thursday and laid out their draft proposal to consolidate the program at that location as part of a broader facilities plan for the district.

But Dobrzynski said if the district moves ahead with its plan and consolidates the South Park and Westport programs, she might take another route to finish high school.

She predicted that others in TAPP would face the same choice or drop out entirely.

“You don’t quit your job till you get a new job, so I’m not quitting my school till I have something else in mind,” Dobrzynski said, noting that it took her a year and a half to get into the Westport TAPP, which is about a 10-minute ride from her home.

“But right now I guess it’s between trying to get into some kind of summer school and see if I can graduate this year because I really only need half a year after this. I would really like to go back to TAPP. I would do the whole half a year just to go back to TAPP if they left it there because I love it so much, but if I have to I guess I would get my GED or try to finish out in the next so many months.”

District leaders say they hope to ease the transition for TAPP students, especially in transportation. The two sites are about 20 miles apart.

That could entail reconfiguring bus routes to accommodate mothers and their children and asking the Transit Authority of River City to add bus stops near the South Park TAPP.

Chief Operations Officer Michael Raisor said the South Park location provides a more central location to consolidate TAPP services, and acting Superintendent Marty Pollio said the district has already looked at how far TAPP students live from their schools.

“It’s something we have to continue to look at and see,” Pollio said. “We need to have efficient bus service here, so that’s going to be an important part right now is to make sure that it’s very efficient in getting kids here as quickly as possible, and if we find that overall bus time drastically increases, then it’s something we won’t take to the board.”

Linda Duncan, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education who represents District 5, said listening to some of the feedback from those in attendance Thursday opened her eyes to issues that she didn’t consider initially, such as whether the South Park TAPP can accommodate the students and their children. There are 67 kids in TAPP now, and the South Park location has room for 21 classrooms.

“More are staying in this program,” she said. “They’re not leaving and going back to other schools. They’re staying, and so we have more children growing.”

Raisor said that the South Park location is set for a complete renovation next year and that JCPS will seek input from administrators and staff as they plan the improvements there.

Combining the program at one location would also allow the district to pool resources and provide additional offerings, he said.

“Some of the questions that came up to me earlier were we need a functioning chemistry lab,” Raisor said. “That’s the kind of thing that a renovation will allow us to do. The other thing though is again, we’re just going to look at what can those extra resources do. Not that we decide, but the people who are in the classrooms, the people who are working in the clinics with the girls and their babies, what do they need that they don’t have right now?”

As JCPS decides how to move forward with TAPP, it might have to do so without financial support from the state.

In his proposed budget, Gov. Matt Bevin cut state funding for TAPP. The state provided $455,000 for the program in the current two-year spending cycle that ends June 30.

District leaders said they were disappointed in the recommended cut but that JCPS would continue to offer TAPP if the state ended its support in the upcoming budget.

“It’s a concern, it really is, but either way we’re going to make sure no matter what happens that this program is successful because it’s too important to the students that attend this school,” Pollio said.

"That's just disheartening because it's such an important program for such an at-risk population," Raisor added.

Rep. Jeff Donohue, D-Fairdale, attended Thursday’s forum and said he hopes to convince members of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, the budget’s first stop in the legislative process, to put TAPP funding back in the spending proposal.

“It’s awful hard, in my personal opinion, with young folks like that working so hard to try and improve their life that we don’t give them that opportunity,” he said.

For now, it’ll be up to JCPS administrators to decide whether they will move ahead with their facilities plan or tweak it based on feedback from the eight planned community forums before bringing it to the board for its approval.

Pollio said the proposal could come to the board by its meeting in late February, “but we’re not positive on that right now.”

“We don’t want to rush anything, but we obviously have got to move if we expect to be successful with it,” he said.

When asked if she could support the plan as drafted, Duncan said she would need to assured that concerns raised Thursday would be addressed.

She also wants to be certain that the proposed moves are “the very best possible option for right now.”

“I think we need a little more conversation about this before we arrive at that,” Duncan said.

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