Alexis Barnett, 17, of Lexington, dropped out of high school when she became pregnant with her son, who is now nine months old.
While she was pregnant, Alexis started working on her general equivalency degree, or GED, through adult education courses. She said she plans on entering cosmetology school.
But under a new state law that increases the dropout age from 16 to 18, Alexis and many other dropouts who did not earn a GED by June 30 face returning to Kentucky public high schools.
The new law was designed to transform lives with the goal of more students graduating and ensuring they are ready for college and careers.
"Economic outcomes are better for students who have a high school diploma compared to dropouts," said Christina Weeter, director of the Division of Student Success in the Kentucky Department of Education.
But one result of the new law is that students already in the process of getting a GED and who will soon turn 18 still have to return to high school.
Weeter said people have been asking Department of Education officials questions about that situation.
Alexis turns 18 in December, but under the law she may have to return to Fayette County Public Schools this fall for at least one semester.
Alexis has passed three portions of the GED, but she missed passing the math portion by one point, said Alexis' mother, Heather Covert. Alexis was granted a waiver to take the math portion one more time this month because she is so close to getting a GED. But if she fails, she will return to public school and will have to wait until she is 18 to continue the GED process.
Though she has nearly mastered the GED, at this point it could take Alexis about three years to earn enough credits to get a traditional high school diploma.
Alexis holds down a part-time job at night, and her mother babysits for her then, but she said she doesn't have anyone to stay with the baby if she has to return to school during the day.
Because she lives with her parents, Alexis said she does not qualify for many child care assistance programs.
"I won't have anybody to watch my son," said Alexis. "That's a really big concern. If I don't go to school, then I'm truant."
Currently, the new law "is not benefitting her," Covert said.
"It's holding her back."
Fifty-four dropouts ages 16 or 17 like Alexis were seeking a GED in adult education classes in Fayette County this year, according to David Sturgill, regional adult education director.
"We moved quite a few students that were actively seeking a GED through the process," Sturgill said.
Pupil personnel directors across Kentucky are tracking down 16- and 17-year-old dropouts who must go back to school in the fall because they didn't make the June 30 deadline.
In Fayette County, 276 dropouts who are 16 or 17 were notified in June by letter how to re-enroll in school.
Meanwhile, Weeter said Kentucky Department of Education officials "want to support schools in re-engaging students" who would have dropped out if not for the new law.