Meridian Elementary, the district's poorest school, will be home an in-school clinic that officials say should boost student health and reduce absenteeism.
High school professional-technical students were constructing some interior walls Wednesday for the 1,600-square-foot portable building that will house the clinic, which is expected to open in March. The district is getting the work done with donations from businesses, including an architect, and with high school students doing some of the renovation work.
"This is going to help a lot of lives," said Matt May, 18, a construction student who spent the morning sawing lumber and installing door frames.
Meridian's is believed to be the first school-based clinic in Idaho, said Linda Clark, district superintendent. About 2,000 such clinics exist around the country, said Kate Muldoon, district coordinator of health services.
School-based clinics are designed to provide medical care to children whose families may not have access to a doctor or clinic, said Julie Robinson, spokeswoman for the Family Medical Residency of Idaho, a nonprofit organization that trains medical residents and will operate the clinic. A pediatric nurse practitioner from the residency will be the clinic's medical director.
The program is not trying to compete with other medical clinics, Robinson said.
"(We're) trying to allow access to medical care," Muldoon said.
For many families, a sick child at school presents a number of issues. Many can't just leave work to tend to their child. Many don't have a family physician. Without treatment, it's "very possible (students) leave and don't come back for a long period of time," Muldoon said.
Education experts regard absenteeism as one of the most significant detriments to children's learning.
Though the clinic is located at Meridian Elementary, where 81 percent of students are low-income, it is also meant to serve nearby schools with high levels of low-income students, including Crossroads Middle School, Meridian Middle School, Chief Joseph School of the Arts, Peregrine Elementary and Barbara Morgan STEM Academy. The area has more than 3,000 students.
The clinic also will take other children if they do not have access to health care, Robinson said.
Here is how the clinic works: Parents give their consent for their children to be treated at the clinic. A sick child would be taken for treatment and parents would be notified. They also can make appointments for checkups, immunizations, management of chronic illnesses, and mental health assessment or illnesses. The residency program is still working on how to transport students from other schools to and from the clinic.
Parents who want to sign up their children at the clinic likely will have to wait until the new year.
Fees will be charged on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.
The Meridian School District and others came up with the idea for a clinic as they were considering what to do with an old portable building that had been vacated by the Treasure Valley Family YMCA after the Boys and Girls Club moved into a new building.
A partnership emerged in which the residency program would raise money to start the clinic and the district would provide the building at no cost for two years. Family Medical Residency has raised $175,000 in grants and hopes to raise $25,000 more.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts