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With plan to focus on teen health, Adams 12 school district opens new clinic

PHOTO: Jasleen_kaur/Creative Commons

The Adams 12 school district, Colorado’s sixth-largest, will open its first school-based health clinic this fall at Thornton High School.

The new clinic will offer routine physicals, sick care and mental health counseling to the 1,675 students at Thornton High as well as another 1,000 students who take classes at the district’s career and technical education center on the same campus.

By providing a convenient source of health care, particularly for low-income students, advocates say school-based health centers help prevent and address health problems that can impede learning.

Statewide, the number of school-based health centers has grown over the last decade — from 40 in 2007 to 59 this fall.

Despite the overall upward trend, not all school-based health centers survive. For example, the clinic at Jefferson Junior-Senior High School, a high poverty school in the Jeffco district, closed its doors last spring.

A district official there said the nonprofit organization providing the health services, which were available to Jefferson students and other local residents, decided to depart because district security logistics made it difficult to keep the clinic open during evening and weekend hours.

In Adams 12, planning for the new clinic began in 2015. A district committee chose Thornton High to house the health center because of the high level of poverty in that area and because the campus, which also houses the Bollman Technical Education Center, serves the largest number of high school students in the district.

District spokesman Kevin Denke said the decision to focus on a teenage population stems from the fact that adolescents tend to see doctors less often than younger students and may be starting to engage in risky behaviors, such as sexual activity, alcohol use or drug use.

The neighboring Boulder Valley school district also has a school-based health clinic in the works, though it’s not expected to open until the fall of 2019. That clinic, the district’s first, will be located at the Arapahoe Campus, which houses Arapahoe Ridge High School and the district’s career and technical education center.

District officials said the clinic was originally slated to open earlier, but the launch was pushed back to align with a planned remodel of the career and technical education space.

In the meantime, the district will expand a dental care program that’s gradually ramped up at the Arapahoe Campus. Begun four years ago as a basic screening program that referred kids with cavities and other problems to area dentists, the program last year provided cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants to 42 students at Arapahoe Ridge and two other district high schools.

This year, the program will offer the same services, plus treatment for minor cavities, to students from all district high schools. The goal is to serve 250 students by the end of the year.

Fighting hunger

No more cheese sandwiches: Denver restores hot lunches for students in debt

Students at Denver's Fairmont ECE-8 have a choice of fruits and vegetables for lunch. (Denver Post file photo)

Denver students will start the year off with lunch debts paid off and a new promise that falling behind on lunch payments will not mean a cold “alternative” meal.

The district announced the change this week.

“We will feed every kid, every day,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg wrote. “We know hungry kids aren’t the best learners.”

In some districts, including DPS, students who fall behind on lunch payments may be given alternative meals such as a cheese sandwich, or graham crackers and milk.

Boasberg said all kids will get regular hot-lunch options while payment issues are resolved and the district works on a long-term strategy.

In the last school year, Denver students had accumulated a balance of more than $13,000. The debt would be higher if some schools had not set aside money to help students.

According to the district, schools paid for more than 37,700 meals during the 2016-17 year.

The district said that donations raised by students through a nonprofit called KidsGiving365, and by Shift Workspaces, founded by Grant Barnhill, a parent of an incoming DPS student, will cover all the outstanding lunch debt of students in the district.

In DPS, all students receive free breakfast. Students who qualify for free lunch based on family income do not make payments and do not accrue debt.

For 2017-18, a family of four must earn less than $31,980 to qualify for free lunch, or less than $45,510 to qualify for a reduced price lunch.

The announcement from DPS reminds families that the application for free or discounted lunch can be submitted throughout the year, and that students are eligible regardless of immigration status.

reentry

A new study helps explain why parents who were once in prison are less involved in their kids’ schools — and what could make a difference

PHOTO: Denver Post File

It’s well known that children with parents who are in jail have the odds stacked against them in school. But a new study finds that the effects of incarceration can extend long after parents are released.

The study, published recently in the American Sociological Review, concludes that fathers who have ever been incarcerated are 28 percent less likely be involved with their children’s school activities, such as volunteering or attending parent-teacher conferences. Since parent engagement in school activities is associated with improvements in student achievement, the study points out, having a parent who is disengaged comes at a cost.

The effect holds true for fathers who were more engaged with their children before going to jail as well as for fathers who were already not very involved. (While there might be an effect on mothers’ engagement, the study found, it was neither clear nor significant.)

Exactly why fathers avoid their children’s school activities after they leave prison is unclear, according to the two authors, Anna Haskins of Cornell University and Wade Jacobsen of the University of Maryland. But they identify one clue in the growing body of research about “surveilling institutions” that collect information and are connected to the state apparatus.

Present-day schools can also be seen as surveilling institutions, through their keeping of formal records, increased security, and direct connections to other public agencies. Thus, parents associated with, involved in, or in fear of engagement with the criminal justice system might disengage from schools, reducing or inhibiting the extent of their involvement in their children’s schooling.

As research showing negative effects of parental incarceration has mounted, some schools and districts have taken steps to help children whose parents are in jail. San Francisco, for example, developed a special curriculum for students in that circumstance. And New York City allows some schools that are seeking to create diverse student populations to give preference in admissions to children with an incarcerated parent.

The study’s authors suggest another strategy: Schools should make parents who have been incarcerated feel welcome to walk in the door.

“Parental involvement in schooling is alterable, as are parental perceptions of schools as safe spaces. Both can be enhanced,” the authors write. “Policies that increase parental involvement among children of the incarcerated may lead to … educational success for this growing population of U.S. children.”