District child care center moved from Tonka

After 25 years, early child care center now at Doolin


Katie Bullock

The baby griffin no longer hangs from the yellow bulletin board near E1, where the district early child care center was held until August.

Katie Bullock, Editor-in-chief

This year, the baby Griffin is no longer displayed outside of the early child care center in the E hallway. Instead, the center along with its Griffin have moved to Doolin at Central office.

“The center was moved so that it was in a more neutral location,” early child care site manager Kristin Jarman said. “With it being at Doolin, students from other schools can utilize the center and not have to leave their home school.”

News of the move came in early August, shortly before the start of the new school year. The child care center originally started at Winnetonka in October 1992 and served all students in the North Kansas City School District.

“I was sad when we got the news that we were leaving Tonka,” Jarman said. “I am a Tonka graduate and the child care center was there for 25 years. It was hard to leave.”

According to several staff members, parents involved with the Booster Club raised concerns about Winnetonka’s image with administrators in the spring of 2017 and that contributed to the decision to move the child care center. Carlie Goss, mother of sophomore AJ Goss, was one of the parents that attended that meeting.

“They [Goss and other members of the Booster Club] had a meeting in the spring with Mr. Maus [previous interim principal Mark Maus] about the things that should change to make our school better and less judged by people,” sophomore AJ Goss said. “I think it did influence [the decision to move the center]. I mean, that’s a big part in people judging our school.”

Senior Kaitlyn Tomlin, whose one-year-old child, Chase, is in the early childcare program said that the center was thought to contribute to a negative community perception of Winnetonka.

“It was moved because it was thought of as an image issue,” Tomlin said. “Nobody liked the idea that Tonka was this ‘everybody get’s pregnant,’ school.”

Although the concerns about image spurred the conversation about moving the early child care center, according to superintendent Daniel Clemens, they did not play a large role in the final decision to move the cener to Doolin.

“There were concerns brought up by the Winnetonka community that there was a stigma attached to Tonka. I believe it was called the ‘pregnancy school,’ and when we talked to staff, staff did not feel that way at all,” Clemens said. “They [staff] loved the teen center so it didn’t seem to be an issue. It was more a stigma of the Winnetonka community. I think we initially we started the investigation because of the concerns but it was not the driving factor in the decision.”

Instead, the decision to move the center came upon discovering that it was originally supposed to be moved every few years, but never was to due limitations on space.

““The center was supposed to move every four or five years, but the other high schools had no empty classrooms,” Clemens said. “Space is is at a premium in our high schools. We had to try and investigate what spaces we did have that would be more centrally located. What we discovered as we started this conversation was that many young parents are staying at their home schools. There’s a good number of students that have been staying at their home school and not utilizing that teen center. With the center now at lower level Doolin it allows all the students in the district to utilize it.”

Although the move came as a surprise to many staff and students, according to Jarman, the student-parents and children that the center benefits are adjusting to the new change.

“The reactions have actually been pretty good,” Jarman said. “At first it was a shock because they [student-parents] were used to seeing their baby during the day. They knew that their baby was just down the hall if anything happened or if they just needed a little love from them to get them through the day. But after being here for a little while now I think they like it.”

Jarman wishes that students were able to see their children more often.

“The biggest change is the parents not being on-site with their baby,” Jarman said. “I wish that the students still had the opportunity to see their baby during the day. I think it helps ease a new, young parent, knowing they could drop in anytime. They still have quality child care for their children and they still get to meet in their advisory groups, but it was just a huge part of our program.”

Tomlin said that the move has been a struggle since it means she spends less time with her child.

“I think it [the move] is a very big struggle for some parents,” Tomlin said. “We have to get up earlier to go there [to Doolin], and I think some parents aren’t okay with their kids being at another place. I can no longer see him [Chase] during intervention or advisory or whenever I have free time. I don’t like it because now I don’t get to see my son as much.”

According to Jarman, the few drawbacks that the move created are in the process of being fixed.

“There are discussions about possibly having a parenting type class either the first block or last block of the day. Again, this is just some brainstorming that the district is doing. They have to take into consideration graduation requirements for various students,” Jarman said. “We are hoping for something by next semester, but in reality it may not happen until next year.”

Regardless of its location, the child care center provides valuable resources to student-parents and their children, according to Jarman.

“The child care center is important because it allows students who have a baby to have reliable, affordable child care for their child so that they may pursue their high school education,” Jarman said. “I would like people to understand that this child care center has been and always will be a district child care center. It was never intended to be for Winnetonka specifically. We have served students at all high schools since opening in October 1992. What we do is a good thing, we are helping graduate students that might not have had the opportunity.”

Although the child care center’s location may have changed, according to Tomlin, the service it provides to student-parents remains.

“It’s [the child care center] a really big help,” Tomlin said. “It’s a really great option for parents to have a cheaper place for their kids to go. They don’t have to worry as much because they know that their child is in a safe place. It has helped me a lot.”