Four New Castle County elementary schools are getting wellness centers that will offer medical, mental health and nutrition services to vulnerable students.
Appoquinimink’s Louis L. Redding Middle School – which also serves Silver Lake Elementary – Christina’s Brookside, Colonial’s McCullough, and Red Clay’s Richardson Park elementary schools will receive $250,000 in funding for the next two years, for a total investment of $2 million.
Getting quality medical care to the young when they need it is the best way to help them achieve in school and life, officials said.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and the superintendents of Colonial, Christina, Red Clay, and Appo school districts, gathered Wednesday to celebrate New Castle County’s investment.
“You can only bend a tree when it’s young,” Meyer said. “It’s not about politics or even about budget and policy. It’s about kids and their health.”
Wellness centers use the help of community-based health systems to provide services to students.
While all Delaware high schools already have a wellness center, Meyer said there is a definite need at the elementary level, where teachers and students recently have been more open about student mental health struggles.
The centers also serve as an enhancement and compliment to the functions and services a school nurse already provides.
Impact of wellness centers
Mandy Pennington, a registered nurse and the supervisor of health services at Red Clay, said that partnering with medical organizations helps school nurses bypass the long wait time for treatment that often occurs due their limited authority.
“We all know that registered nurses work under providers, and we really can’t do anything without a doctor’s order,” she said.
Having a wellness center, she said, gives the power back to the students to make appointments for their own physicals and use their school as a place to monitor and ensure their health.
The event was held in a classroom at Brookside Elementary School that will soon be turned into the school’s wellness center site.
The schools serve higher numbers of children in families living in poverty, and those families have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, officials said.
“The wellness centers come out of a very traumatic experience from our students and families,” said Christina Superintendent Dan Shelton. “I hope that the successes that happen here and in the other districts will help to elevate and accelerate the work done at the state level to make sure that all schools can have this service.”
The county had identified 26 schools that qualified for help and hope to continue adding wellness centers to elementary schools until all elementaries have one.
“This is the kind of thing that is going to have a lasting impact, for decades,” Meyer said. “We need to figure out how we can have these at every elementary school across the state. Just like we have math teachers and English teachers, we need those wellness centers.”
Colonial Superintendent Jeff Menzer said the district’s wellness center at Eisenberg Elementary is a success story, and the other districts will soon see the accessibility and opportunity that the centers provide to students.
“It matters and it will make a difference,” Menzer said. “Just stay the course, because what everyone’s not saying is it’s going to be really hard work. But stay the course because it’ll be worth it.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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