The New York State Education Department and politicians recently toured Dr. King Elementary school in Syracuse, calling it a model for the future of schools, to move toward a community school model across the state.
Community schools would offer a school-based health center to provide medical, dental and mental health services to students on campus during school hours, free of charge. If parents give consent, they do not need to attend the student's medical appointments.
Kuricheses Alexander is the principal of Dr. King Elementary, a STEAM school and a community school. Community schools like Dr. King include school-based health centers.
"This is the entrance where our community health-based center actually starts. We have our nurse practitioners and teams we have dental care here we have our mental health," said Alexander.
Alexander says Dr. King Elementary has provided these services for 28 years.
"Our babies are able to get whatever they need right there. They also can get, with parents' permission, vaccinations if they need it. They can have their hearing tested; their vision tested. So some of those basic things. They can have physicals, as well, with parent permissions, so some of those things that families would typically go to their pediatrician for and have to make an appointmen, leave work, check the child out of school. They won't have to do that here," said Alexander.
Alexander says healthy children have a increased disposition to be ready and able to learn in their classrooms, saying the services the school provides shows the importance of the school beyond just its teaching methods in the community.
"I think it's just a blessing. And I do think the more schools that can have it, the better." she says.
The Syracuse City School District has school-based health centers in eight of their schools to serve students enrolled in those buildings.
Parents must sign a release to authorize students to receive medical care at the health centers prior to treatment. The cost of the medical centers comes from the Syracuse Community Health Center budget, which is funded with taxpayer dollars.
In 2020, the Syracuse Community Health Center received almost $4 million in federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services.