Alachua County School Board Member Leanetta McNealy reviews equity plan and discusses revisions with the school board.

Alachua County Schools’ ACCEPT Program Faces Revisions in Equity Plan

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Above: Click to listen to an audio version of this story.

Angela Monroe likes to joke that her mother dropped her off at Mebane Middle School in Alachua 42 years ago and that she has been here ever since.

Monroe has worked at Loften High School for 28 years. She is in charge of the child care center that is part of the Alachua County Continuing Education for Pregnant/Parenting Teens (ACCEPT) program.

On Tuesday night, Monroe addressed the Alachua County School Board about the ACCEPT program. Monroe noticed several errors regarding its representation in the equity plan that the board was reviewing. The plan included an outdated brochure that boasted classes no longer available at the school and gave inaccurate information about the program.

According to the brochure placed in the equity plan, the ACCEPT program offers child care for children under the age of 2. However, 3 is the actual age limit for the program. The plan also mentions the use of a school bus that is equipped with car seats. This bus was used to transport the mothers and children. While car seats are allowed on regular school buses, there is no longer a specified “baby bus” for this purpose.  The changes in course offerings at Loften High School were also not reflected in the plan.

“I would be very upset that this went to the state department in this forum representing the teen parent program as inaccurate as it is,” Monroe said.

ACCEPT was designed as a drop-out prevention program to help pregnant and teen parents continue getting their education while caring for their children. The program includes free child care during school hours, and it allows for excused absences related to illness or pregnancy. In recent years, the program has seen low enrollment as more students chose to stay at their own schools rather than transferring to be a part of ACCEPT.

Because Alachua County is a large geographic area — about 965 square miles — students may find it difficult to travel long distances on school busses to be a part of the program.

Schools Superintendent Karen Clarke agreed that the brochure included in the equity plan needed to be updated. Curriculum staff was asked to research other counties similar in size and population to see if their methods could apply to Alachua County. Based on the declining enrollment in ACCEPT and students’ changing needs, Clarke said Alachua County could take a deeper look at how services could be more beneficial.

A possible solution was expanding on a voucher system that would allow parents to take their children to a child care facility outside of the high school. While the county already offers this option, it could be expanded.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to really look at is this the best way for us to serve our young ladies and their children,” Clarke said.

Another question raised about ACCEPT concentrated on its academic requirements. School Board Member Leanetta McNealy – who helped run the meeting in Chair Eileen Roy’s absence – expressed concerns that the requirements set forth by Loften High School were different than those in the state mandate. She said that the county should be following the mandate and not creating its own stipulations.

The county receives state funding for the ACCEPT program based on the mothers enrolled in the program and the children. Research will be continued to see if any additional funding is available.

The equity plan was sent back for review so that the brochure included would be updated to portray the program accurately. Board members also said that the language used in the plan should be reevaluated. School board members requested that Monroe be a part of the research as the county continues to search for state funding and effective policies on behalf of the ACCEPT program.

About Taylor Lockett

Taylor is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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