With a total of 14 students across the district who are parents, the La Joya Independent School district is looking into ways to ensure those teen moms stay in school as they care for their children.
During Wednesday’s school board meeting, Ricardo Villarreal, the district’s assistant superintendent for student services, presented to the board a Pregnancy and Education Program that will ease transportation issues for these teen parents.
According to Villarreal, a report done by his department revealed that for most of the district’s teen parents – who are mostly high school students – couldn’t afford daycare for their children, leading them to miss out on school to take care of them.
“A lot of moms can’t afford sending their kids to daycare so they stay home, kids and their moms aren’t learning as a result,” he said. “A lot of these moms don’t end up graduating, or they come back and don’t graduate with their cohort and when they send their kids to kindergarten, they’re underprepared because they don’t know the basics.”
To assist these teen parents, Villarreal offered a solution: a program in conjunction with the district’s transportation department and area daycares to provide transportation for the parents to attend school and drop off their kids at daycare.
“We’re looking to get this implemented by the next school year,” Villarreal said. “The transportation aspect of it will need to be smoothed out, but at least the students won’t have to worry about transportation costs.”
Students under the program will also have flex scheduling, where they start school at a later hour to be able to balance their parenting and student duties.
The district’s Pregnancy Education and Parenting Program would be similar to the ones implemented by the Brownsville Independent School District and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, Villarreal said.
Under the district’s Pregnancy Education and Parenting Program, participating students will have to have good grades, no disciplinary issues and a 95 percent attendance rate, Villarreal said. A budget of around $35,000 would be needed to fund the program, Villarreal said.
According to La Joya Superintendent Alda T. Benavides, the program would be a benefit for students.
“Sometimes kids make mistakes and if they don’t go to school, it’ll be impossible for them to improve the quality of life for them and their kids,” Benavides said. “We’re trying to find every possible way to educate them to be better teen parents.”
The district’s student services department will have to come up with an action plan that will show the implementation of the program and present it to the board before it is approved, Benavides said.