Emerson doesn’t just serve pregnant teens, however, the school also is a "second chance” for male and female students who have been kicked out of other schools or are academically far behind. That program operates independently of the larger program for teen mothers.
"It’s hard not to get emotional about Emerson,” school board member Ron Millican said after several teachers and volunteers broke into tears at the last school board meeting. "It’s a very unsightly building. I’m embarrassed by it. The portables were damaged in the bombing 15 years ago and haven’t been replaced.”
The two portable buildings, described by neighbors as the midtown trailer park, have leaking ceilings and little to no temperature regulation.
"These teachers do not complain about these things,” Bennett said. "They pack up the girls when the heat is out in the modulars and move them to the cafeteria.”
Like a family
St. Anthony Hospital President Joe Hodges said Emerson’s renovation is an important piece of the Midtown redevelopment effort that the hospital has poured $200 million into since 2003.
"Emerson has been a huge partner with St. Anthony, not only because they live in the neighborhood, but we work with them in their health technologies program,” Hodges said. "They have been such a great supporter of St. Anthony and all of our Midtown development.”
Hodges said the outside appearance of the building is not appropriate for the direction in which the neighborhood is headed.
Wenger said under the recommended budget expansion the long-standing temporary buildings would be removed.
Construction at the school could begin in late spring 2011, Wenger said, but before that he said his team of architects will hold many meetings with the school to make certain the new building and the remodel address the student’s needs.
"We have dreams about the things we want and the things that should be happening,” said Dr. Lorraine Harris, a gynecologist who has volunteered at the school every Tuesday for the last 15 years.
Harris said chief among that dream are reinstituting the health clinic that was once at the school but that lost funding in 2009, adding a breast-feeding room and a sick room for children in the day care.
"We really are in a way their family, the place they come for comfort,” Harris said. "It’s now time really for the city and the school board to step up and say, ‘We value the contribution you’ve made to our society, and you deserve a facility that reflects what you’re trying to do.’”