I'm bullish about the Minneapolis school board's decision to move its headquarters to the North Side. The area, pummeled in recent years by foreclosures, crime and detractors eager to sever it from the greater community, is shifting. Home prices are up, violence in many areas was down last year, and businesses are revitalizing.
But let's not talk about how to raze and re-create the building at 1250 W. Broadway without also focusing on how to preserve, intact, what is leaving that building.
If you thought 1250 W. Broadway was vacant, you're in good company. Most people have no idea that it houses Broadway High School, a national model serving the complex needs of pregnant teens and young mothers. The school can boast many successes: more girls completing high school and attending college, more girls in job-training programs, healthier and fully immunized babies, and equally essential, a dramatic dip in repeat pregnancies.
Months before the board voted on the headquarters' move, the Broadway building was slated for shuttering as part of the Changing School Options program. District leaders promised a new home for Broadway School. The operative word is "a," as in one single home. The magic of the program is its everything-under-one-roof approach:
High school courses and GED preparation, on-site child care in sunny, engaging rooms with a veteran staff; daily parenting education; social, legal and mental health services; economic assistance; a clothing closet, health clinic, and door-to-door bus transportation.
"It's such a gem and hard to duplicate," said Barbara Kyle, former Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPPP) coordinator. "These kids aren't going to picket like they might at South High. Broadway School is really a family."
A proposed one-year transitional plan has Broadway School mothers and the youngest babies housed in a separate area at Minneapolis' North High, which offers child care. Children six months and older would be placed during the year at Parkview Elementary, about 2 miles away. Nobody says it's optimal. North High is not on a bus line, and several Broadway staff people are holding their breath, keenly aware that young moms thrust back into a typical high school climate, even if housed in a separate wing, will feel lost or give up.
That's why it's important to make a plan now for the inevitably difficult interim year, to figure out how to keep these girls in school and keep their babies healthy. Shuttles between the two locations? Skype during the day? On-site case managers?
Most important is creating a plan now for a permanent one-stop home, so that one year doesn't become two or three or off the radar completely.
Nearly 400 students, ages 14 to 21, attend Broadway High School each year; about 270 children from infancy to kindergarten attend the on-site child care. The road for many of these young moms is beyond bumpy. Many face poverty, homelessness, depression. More than half of the students failed to pass the GRAD assessments and none met the proficiency levels on the math portion of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment.
District TAPPP coordinator Mary Pat Sigurdson is "profoundly aware" that success for these moms and their babies rests largely on accountability and rigorous instruction, but also on trusting relationships.
"Nobody judges; everything is confidential," said Broadway senior Dominique Hines, 18, honored last week with a districtwide Leadership Award. Her 2-year-old son loves the on-site day care and got his H1N1 shot and first dental exam on the premises.
Marguerita Gonzalez, 18, rides two buses daily from New Hope with her 3-year-old son to attend Broadway. She tried other programs, and off-site day care, but returned to Broadway, where she receives classroom learning and everything from laundry soap to rides home in the winter. Gonzalez also was honored with a districtwide Leadership Award and will graduate in June with 20 college credits. Hines will graduate with 16.
Confidence-boosting is only one victory. A five-year study, now in its fourth year, shows that subsequent births among Broadway students 19 or younger was 8 percent, or 22 mothers, compared with 22 percent, or 127 teen moms, in Minneapolis, said Nancy Leland, a researcher with the Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota.
Approximately 98 percent of Broadway High babies were fully immunized, compared with 47 percent of children ages 0 to 2 in Minneapolis. And average attendance was at an all-time high in 2009, at 65 percent, which means "gains made in reengaging this hard-to-serve, older student group, most of whom would otherwise drop out," Leland said.
Now is the time to ask: How do we protect this promising trend?
"Our absolute intention is keeping these services in place," said Jim Johnson, director of student support services. "What we've got is a year of incredible effort ahead to make sure that moms know we care and are committed to them. It's going to take creativity to think through solutions."
Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350 • email@example.com