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Lodi Unified's pregnant student center to broaden its horizons

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Posted: Friday, January 6, 2006 10:00 pm

With some time, planning and a little cash from the state, Lodi Unified is giving its teen parenthood program a makeover.

New Horizons has served hundreds of students in the last three decades, at times operating out of nothing more than a day care center or portable classroom. Teens, mostly pregnant moms to be, combined parenting skill classes with their regular grade level curriculum in the all-day program.

But in recent months, the district has placed an emphasis on creating a rigorous academic environment for students who may be interested in continuing their education past high school.

Steve Colwell, principal of adult education, said the district hopes to also offer more opportunities for teen fathers and the children of students.

An agreement from the state to reimburse the district $30 per day for each child in the day care program will help that, Colwell said.

"We looked at it as a real dire need," Colwell said of the extra funding. "(Now,) the father can be included in the services provided."

In a lengthy application process, officials outlined the goals of New Horizons services. Because the program met the requirements for state funding, reimbursement would bring in as much as $138,000 annually for a program with 16 children.

That is far more than New Horizons' previous operating budget, which included small-item classroom equipment and about $90,000 for one full-time teacher.

Dennis Brown, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the district has considered the possibility of cutting the program in tight budget times, but still values the services it provides.

"What we had to do was find an alternative funding source," Brown added.

Now that the state has agreed to provide reimbursement, New Horizons can spend money on curriculum and classroom improvements, according to Vice Principal of adult education Tami Somera, who also wrote the application.

"It gives guidelines and regulations that are going to make the program better for everybody," Somera said. "This will be a better chance for us to support these girls and give them the tools they need to provide for their children."

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at sarac@lodinews.com.

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