The District 225 Board of Education has paved the way for construction to start on the much anticipated “Glenbrook School Health Center” project which will be partially paid for with $1.9 million in FEMA funding the school district got to cover COVID-19 expenses.
The school board voted 6-0 at its regular meeting on June 13 to approve a construction bid and services agreement for the Glenbrook School Health Center project, the district said in a release. It said once completed, the center will provide basic health services for students and staff.
The board also approved a five-year professional services agreement with Advocate Aurora Health Care at a first-year annual price not to exceed $430,000, said the release. It said the health services organization will provide full staffing for the school health center including an advanced nurse practitioner, a social worker, a medical assistant, and an executive assistant.
The district said it anticipates construction will begin on June 21, and the center will open in October 2022.
“During COVID, providing convenient access to students and staff before during, and after school has contributed to keeping our school community healthy and keeping students in school for in-person learning ‚” District 225 Associate Superintendent R.J. Gravel said in the release. “As we’re transitioning from pandemic to managing COVID in our community, a health center will provide great value.”
In reviewing health services provided through the nurse’s office at both GBN and GBS, the district saw a growing need. Roughly 100 to 120 students a day access each school’s nurses office. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to keep our school community healthy and in school, the district said.
The Health Center will serve as a “hub of care for all students and staff to receive basic health care services,” including physical exams for all freshman and transfer students, athletic physical exams for students participating in interscholastic athletics, immunizations, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, general health care exams (e.g., sore throat, nausea, eye irritation); and mental health services (similar to those offered by community health agencies), said the release.
The district said the center will operate much like a “pharmacy walk-in clinic” with treatment for ear and sinus infections, colds, flu, strep throat, and other minor illnesses, treatment for minor wounds, such as nonsevere cuts, blisters, and skin abrasions, limited chronic condition screenings, immunizations for the flu, meningitis, shingles, and other illnesses, and emotional and mental health consultations and follow-up sessions.
“As partners in the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, our teams at Advocate Children’s Hospital and pediatrics at NorthShore University Health System, are dedicated to the health care needs of children and teens across Chicago and the region,” Sara Jensen, Advocate Children’s Hospital vice president of pediatric operations, said in the release. “This collaboration with Glenbrook High Schools on a new school-based health center will ensure that teenagers in District 225 receive prompt care for their physical and emotional needs in a comfortable and familiar environment.”
Through the support of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and State Sen. Laura Fine, the school district has been awarded a one-time grant for $250,000 for “facilities and equipment expenses,” the release said. It said the funding was made possible through Congress’ 2021 Community Project Funding process recently approved as part of the Omnibus spending bill. Additionally, the school district received unanticipated, unbudgeted reimbursements from FEMA for $1.09 million, for previously submitted COVID-19 expenses, which will supplement the one-time construction costs with a school-based health center, according to the release.
It said that additionally, the district will apply for competitive grants to help fund the center. The district anticipates that the Glenbrook School Health Center will reduce costs for District 225 in two areas: self-insurance costs for employee health plans and costs for staff substitutes, said the release.
“We are so appreciative of the funding to establish the Glenbrook School Health Center for our school community,” Glenbrook School District 225 Superintendent Charles Johns said in the release. “It will help promote attendance, achievement and participation for all of our students.”
The Glenbrook School Health Center will be located at Glenbrook South High School, said the release. It said shuttles will be available for Glenbrook North students to access the Health Center services.
The district is expected to execute its professional services agreement on June 27, and Advocate Healthcare will begin its hiring process for staff, the release said. It said it is anticipated that personnel for the health center will be hired by mid-August and operation will begin in the fall of 2022.
The district said the center will provide ease of use and convenience because students who go to the nurse’s office with a stomach ache, for example, cannot be diagnosed and treated.
With a health care center, the nurse could refer the student (only if the student has a parental release on file), and the student could be treated and if appropriate, return to class. Similarly, staff could access the center as well. Studies show that consistent student attendance and participation in school are critical to learning and educational attainment. Additionally, the district anticipates that staff absences and the need for substitutes would lessen as a result of a health care center.
Brian L. Cox is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.