Maui High day care program squeezed out for lack of space

Teen parenting program will continue to be taught

Maui High School education assistant/nanny Maile Tobin reads with Janiyah Apolo on Wednesday, one day before the school’s day care program for children of student mothers ends. The program will not be continued next year because the school’s burgeoning enrollment needs the classroom space. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

When Maile Tobin was juggling school, a toddler and night shifts at Outback Steakhouse, the day care program at Maui High School was a lifesaver.

“If I didn’t have this program, I wouldn’t have graduated, because I wouldn’t have had anybody to watch my son,” said Tobin, who graduated in 2015 and now works as a nanny for the school’s day care.

It’s why Tobin is heartbroken to see the program end today, despite months of efforts to save it. Since Principal Jamie Yap confirmed in January that the school might have to shut down the program due to limited space, teachers and students have tried to find solutions. Jada Apolo, a junior who relies on the day care service, sent out community surveys and letters. One nonprofit offered $20,000 grant to help house the program, and other community members also offered to pitch in.

But with the school expecting more than 600 freshmen in the fall and an enrollment over 2,000, there’s just nowhere for the program to go.

“What it comes down to is even if we had all the money in the world, because of building on DOE (Department of Education) property and all the red tape, it wouldn’t have happened by August,” said Bronwyn Tatman, the program director and also the school’s curriculum coordinator.

Bronwyn Tatman

“I mean, we’re bursting at the seams,” Tatman added. “It’s insane. We already have teachers who float who have no classroom to themselves.”

On Wednesday, the classroom that once housed several playpens, couches, toys and a nursing area was mostly bare, aside from some chairs and a few boxes of toys. The day care room and the classroom used for the teen parents educational program will be cleared to make way for four special education teachers, Tatman said.

The teen parents program, which teaches expecting and new parents everything from breastfeeding to bathing to childproofing a home, started in 1989. The day care followed in 2005. Tatman said the teen parents program will continue; she’ll just have to teach it in a friend’s classroom.

Maui High has been the only public school in the county to offer a day care program, and one of only three schools statewide along with Kapaa and Konawaena high schools. It only cost students $25 for a school year of day care.

“I wish that our other schools on Maui could have taken the day care on, because it would also help their students,” Tatman said. “But I think everybody’s pretty stressed for space is what we’ve heard. Because we’ve asked King K and Baldwin.”

Tatman said she expects to have one junior and five seniors who will need the program in the fall. She’s not sure which of the students will be able to return to school.

“From what I can tell, most of them have other day care alternatives with their families,” Tatman said. “So baby will probably stay with grandma or an aunty. I have two girls that have no child care options. And they’ve already expressed stress about it, and they might need to drop out, which is really disheartening because they’re both really good students, and they’ll be seniors next year.”

Apolo, meanwhile, was able to get financial aid from Maui Family Support Services, which will help cover the costs of outside day care for her 1-year-old daughter.

“I thought I was going to have to, but with the Maui Family Support Services, I won’t have to drop out,” she said.

Apolo’s parents both work full-time jobs, so the school’s day care program has been an affordable option that’s also allowed Apolo to focus on her studies. She credits her good grades to the program and has said she wants to become a veterinarian some day. Apolo said she hopes her fellow students won’t have to drop out.

“It’s just really sad, and it’s really heartbreaking, because I wasn’t only doing it for myself,” Apolo said of her efforts to save the program. “I was doing it for every future teen parent out there.”

Tobin said other students who have used the day care are now “scrounging to find sitters” or scholarships to help cover day care. Tobin is a product of the day care program; she gave birth to her son in 2013, the fall of her junior year, and was able to graduate on time thanks to the day care.

“I know my kid would be safe in this program,” she said. “I could come see him at lunch. I could come see him at recess, and I know he’d be OK. I don’t have to worry.”

She worries about the students, knowing the impact the day care had on a teen parent like her.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t have been able to finish school,” Tobin said. “I am so grateful that this program happened, and I’m so grateful that I got the chance to give back.”

Tatman said that while it may be too late to find a way to keep the day care on campus, she said that the community could still help “if they know of any day cares or of any funding or grants that we don’t already know about.”

“We know about most of the free day cares in the community, but it’s just the wait list is insane,” Tatman said.

She said people can contact her at bronwyn.tatman@mauihigh.org.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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