Supporters argue that a Child Development Center would open doors for those interested in pursuing a career in childcare.

It would provide a lab setting for an innovative trade course that could even lead to immediate employment through a partnership with the YWCA.

Clinton Community School District Board of Education member Jack Wenzel sees it differently.

“This is one of the most asinine ideas I’ve heard since I came on (the school board),” said Wenzel.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Clinton High School Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones presented tentative plans for the program, which would be offered as a practical arts elective in the vein of other trade programs.

The center would allow students to work directly with children in a lab setting and facilitate educational activities.

The center would likely be located in a remodeled CHS classroom that would have direct outdoors access and would be in close proximity to the school nurse.

Tharaldson Jones said that $192,000 worth of renovations would need to be done to fit the area with bathrooms, a kitchenette and other amenities necessary for child safety.

The accurate term for the program, according to CHS family and consumer science teacher Brenda Rasche, is Infant Educational Center. Wenzel disagreed.

“You can call a junkyard a salvage yard, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a junkyard.”

Wenzel compared the program to a daycare center, and questioned whether or not it was an appropriate addition to the school. He also lamented that $192,000 price tag, saying there was no way the district could afford it.

Rasche disagreed with Wenzel’s assessment.

“This is exactly the kind of impression we don’t want the community to have,” she said.

Public perception of the program will be important for it to be successful, Rasche said. The child development center is not meant to serve as free childcare to teenage parents, but rather an opportunity for students to directly interact with children in a safe environment.

The young children of district employees would be ideal candidates for the program, though Rasche said that children of students could be involved as well.

Several school board members said they were intrigued by the program. Gregg Obren said he was “cautiously optimistic.” School board president Jim McGraw said that his hometown school had implemented a similar program.

But, both said that more research was needed.

“I think it needs more thought,” McGraw said. “I also think it’s worth pursuing.”

Rasche said she had originally hoped to have some form of the program up and running next school year, but that may not be possible.

She said she will research similar programs at other schools to determine how best to implement it locally.

The presentation did not appear as an action item on the school board meeting agenda and no decisions were made.

Follow Ben Jacobson on Twitter @BJacobsonHerald.

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