The Southside Independent School District is building a medical clinic next to the district’s central office.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, school officials said the clinic will be free for the district’s more than 5,000 students. It will also be open to district staff and community members.
Southside Superintendent Mark Eads and board of managers President Dolores Sendejo said the clinic will help both students and teachers stay healthy and in school.
The latest figures available from the state show that Southside had an attendance rate just under 95 percent in the 2016-2017 school year. But, Eads said, with the clinic he thinks the district will be able to move that up to 96 of 97 percent.
“We’ll be able, with the proper forms, to bring students over, receive the medication they need or the treatment they need, and put them back in the classroom so they won’t miss class time,” Eads said. “(Right now), when we have students who are sick at school, we have issues sometimes with the parents being able to get off work to come pick them up, and so they end up having to spend the day without being provided any service.”
Sendejo said one of the district’s goals is to reduce both student and teacher absences. Schools receive state funding based on student attendance.
To help reduce the need for substitute teachers, Eads said classroom teachers will be given priority in the clinic.
“Instead of them having to take a half day or a day of leave, they will be able to come over during their conference periods, guaranteed seen immediately and then returned back to the classroom,” Eads said.
According to the superintendent, families currently only have one option for medical care inside the district’s footprint.
“In some cases, we’ve talked with families, and they’re not going anywhere,” Eads said. “What they’re doing is, when their children are sick, they’re taking them home and they may miss two, three, four days.”
The clinic is slated to open in late April, with a doctor or physician’s assistant on hand Monday through Friday. Eads said the district plans to submit claims to a student’s insurance if they have it, but no one will be turned away because their family can’t pay.
Local philanthropist and businesswoman Kym Rapier donated more than $1 million to Southside to build and staff the clinic. Eventually, the district plans to add dental services and mental health care.
Karina Villa, Rapier’s spokeswoman, said the philanthropist “will continue to support” Southside “as long as we are able.”
Rapier also recently donated $100,000 for a food pantry at Pearce Elementary School.
About 82 percent of Southside’s students are considered economically disadvantaged because they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Camille Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille