BATESVILLE — Students at Southside schools have had a unique place to go for medical needs for more than a year and a half, but with a new grant, the district will be able to construct a new building with more possibilities.
The Southside School District recently received $500,000 in state funding over a five-year period to implement a school-based health center to promote student health, wellness and academic achievement.
According to the specifications outlined by the Arkansas Department of Education, the health centers provide “services beyond the scope of the school-nurse practice and [are] not intended to replace the school nurse.”
The centers are intended to act as a resource center for wellness and prevention. Located on school grounds, they provide a range of services to meet physical and behavioral health needs and utilize a team of providers that include nurse practitioners, registered nurses, physician assistants, social workers, physicians, alcohol and drug counselors, and other health professionals.
Southside Superintendent Roger Rich said the district was one of the first to have an on-campus health center, but that the grant will help the district build a new building with even more room and more capabilities.
“We started our own [health center] a little over a year and a half ago on our own. It has three exam rooms, and we partner with ARcare out of Augusta,” Rich said. “The reason we applied for the grant was to expand what we’re already offering.”
The grant was designed to be a renovation grant, but because Southside already had a health center, the grant is allowed to go toward new construction.
Currently, the health center is in a building attached to the school bus depot. The proposed new site is in front of Southside Elementary School facing Batesville Boulevard. The current health center has three exam rooms and can accommodate 25 to 35 patients a day. The new health center will have 10 exam rooms and is expected to accommodate three times the number of patients as the existing facility.
Rich said the current health center has had “unbelievable response” from the students and community.
“It’s so much more convenient for our parents to get our students in and out in a timely manner,” he said. “One of the great partnerships with ARcare is that our faculty and staff and students are seen first. It is open to the community, but we call and get preference.”
Official data is not in yet, but Rich said he believes having a health center has cut down on the time students are out of class for doctor’s visits. One example Rich offered was when the daughter of a teacher got sick and utilized the health center. She was able to get in to see a doctor, get a prescription and get home within 45 minutes.
“That’s how quick we can get them in and out,” Rich said. “If the child can be back in class, we send them back in class with what they need. If not, we’re getting them home and away from others before they cause them to get sick.”
The first year’s allotment of the five-year $500,000 grant is $150,000. The school district has estimated that the new center will cost $850,000. The district hopes to hire an architect and begin construction within the next two to three months.
In addition to the health center, the district also partners with Vital Link EMS to provide a substation for the service’s vehicles.
“We’re an unincorporated community, even though Batesville’s only five miles away. We have 8,000 people or so in this area. We want to provide quicker response times; we want to provide more extensive health care,” Rich said. “If you’ve got a healthy group of people, then you’ve got a healthier student and a healthier workforce.”
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.