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School Based Health Care Divides Mamaroneck Community

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School-based health care is being discussed in School Districts nationwide. This advertisement is being run in Massachusetts. Courtesy: Mass. Assoc. for School-Based Health Care

Arguments against a local School-based Health Center (SBHC) in the Mamaroneck Public Schools has heated up with efforts by a group called Citizens Against an SBHC in Mamaroneck.

As we have reported, there have been School Board meetings on the subject and an information FAQ sheet has been distributed by the District.

The Mamaroneck Avenue Elementary School based clinic was proposed by Open Door and  the Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck.

Zoe Colon, executive director of the Hispanic Resource Center acknowledges  some of the reaction has been hostile and has exacerbated race and class divisions. “There’s been a lot of misinformation,” Colon said. “A lot of it is rooted in fear, she told LoHud.”

Facebook page explains some of those objections to an SBHC in more detail.

  1.  An SBHC will take up valuable space at an already crowded elementary school. The MAS student population is the fastest growing in the district.  Enrollment has increased by over 10% over the last two years, and is expected to continue to grow at a greater rate than the rest of the district.  As a result, space at the school is tight.  (For comparison, available square feet per student at MAS is 139.  It is 149 per student at Murray, 150 per student at Chatsworth, and 163 at Central.)  Opponents to an SBHC feel that space within MAS is best used for current or future educational purposes.
  2.  Locating a health center within a school encourages sick children who would otherwise stay home to come to school in order to get medical treatment. Opponents believe that this will increase the spread of common childhood illnesses.
  3.  Open Door has announced to the school district and to the public that they are planning on opening a community health center in Mamaroneck, within walking distance of MAS.  The same services available at an SBHC will be available at a community health center.  Opponents feel that a community based health center that can treat the whole family offers all of the benefits of a school based health center, without the significant negatives.
  4.  The school district’s primary justification for opening an SBHC is that it might help close the “achievement gap” between lower socio-economic students and their more affluent peers.  Curiously, at the same time the school district is considering ways to eliminate co-op camp and other extended year academic programs.  Co-op camp is a summer program for students from all elementary schools who have been identified by their principal as needing additional academic help to reach grade-level standards.  The program provides a 1/2 day of remedial academics, and a 1/2 of more typical day camp activities.  While open to all students, most participants are lower SES and/or come from households that do not speak English and are unable to provide the necessary academic supports themselves.  Opponents of a SBHC feel that the best way to close the “achievement gap” is to focus on academic supports that have been shown to be effective – like extended year academic programs.  The time and energy devoted to studying an SBHC has been a distraction from academic matters.


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February 15, 2015 12:13 PM

If the goal is to help the lower SES students, the initiative should not be limited to one location inaccessible to many such students. Programs should be district wide and provide additional support to all those who need them. If you happen to live in the Murray Avenue part of the district, but are of lower means or simply have a child who needs remedial help, why should you not have the same opportunities to help your child as someone living in the Mmaroneck part? Shouldn’t your tax contributions give you that right?

February 13, 2015 6:02 PM

Also this Superintendent/Board has a knack for dividing the community.

February 13, 2015 6:00 PM

The has to be another motive for this because based on the data it makes no sense. Also there is more than enough academic needs that should be the focus of the Board and the Superintendent .If he is “not in the camp business” why is he in the healthcare business ? Also with a clinic opening in town , nurses in the schools , free shots at CVS there are options .What are the other academic options for cut programs ? What about the disadvantaged population in the other elementary schools ? If this clinic is only for Mamaroneck Avenue students what about their healthcare needs ? They are going to provide this service only to disadvantaged mamaroneck avenue students but not to the same population in other schools This whole thing sounds fishy to me . And yes, I am not against a clinic in the village or town . I am not against helping people . I am against the school taking on this role .

Board watcher
Board watcher
February 13, 2015 10:40 AM

On its own merits, the case for a SBHC seems weak. It is disappointing that substantive objections to the plan are ignored, and instead opponents are wrongfully portrayed as Archie Bunker-types fearful of change.

Portraying the debate on this issue as “us vs. them” is inaccurate, and serves no one.

February 13, 2015 10:21 AM

I have to strongly disagree tht the opposition is based on “misinformation and fear”. There are varied options for free and low cost healthcare in very reasonable distances of our schools. There is the Open Door FAMILY clinic to be opened shortly right within town. No one wants to see ANY child go without healthcare. BUT…it is not/SHOULD not be a priority of the school district to spend money, time and effort on this while at the same time reducing the educational/academic opportunities for improvement of those who are in need. I just have trouble wrapping my head around this situation. Co op camp has been operating since the 1960s” and he is “not in the summer camp business” yet…he wants to be in the healthcare business. To me…a school district should be more focused on academic acheivement for ALL. To cut back on supports for struggling students and focus more on giving (nice but not truly necessary) healthcare options to the disadvantaged is just mind boggling and makes one wonder what the real objectives might be.

I truly support and care about those in our community who are less advantaged…whether due to learning disabilites or economic disadvantage. But to me, the school system should focus on school issues rather than healthcare issues. I am surprised tht the hispanic center goes along with this…rather than trying to reinstate the co op camp as it used to be…a full day rich, fun and rewarding experience.

February 14, 2015 10:32 AM
Reply to  kashi

I would like to clarify the situation with co op camp. Since the 1960s, it was a full day, very low cost summer program that was offered to students with academic and/or economic issues. There were academics but also a rich and rewarding “camp” experience mixed into their day. Last summer, it was cut back to only 3 hours a day and focused on academics. Certainly, every effort was made to provide an enjoyable experience for the kids but it was a vastly different experience from summers of the past. This summer, co op camp will again be only a few hours, the cost may be increased to be more in line with other camps and next summer, it is the hope of Dr Shaps to foist co op camp initiatives (such as preventing “summer slide”) onto local town and village camps an local libraries, thus releiving the school district of summer academic and social support completely. Dr Shaps feels that co op camp has “been operating since the 1960s so now is the perfect time to explore other” …(alternatives). In my opinion, a program that has been successfully operating and providing essential academic and social support for more than half a century indicates that it is a vital component of exactly what the people of this district value and cherish. Meantime, there is slated to be some sort of consultant based feasability study to be undertaken for this SBHC the cost for which would likely cover at least a handful of kids to attend a summer program such as we (used to) have here. My child no longer qualifies for co op camp as he is older now. But having experienced co op camp in its “glory days”, I can fully attest to its value. A SBHC will have some small value surely…but not nearly the value that would be worth spending any time, effort or resources on in light of this situation with co op camp.

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