Fort Smith School Board approves health center – Southwest Times Record

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While many schoolchildren in Arkansas may still lag behind in their learning following the pandemic, in Fort Smith, a way to return to better health, improve mental health and academic work while staying healthier has been approved in a future northside health center.
The Fort Smith Schools Board of Education Monday night reviewed a presentation from Kerri Tucker, the health center coordinator, who spoke on a plan for a new health and wellness center building before voting in favor of the plan for a new building.
The future health center is part of the district’s Vision 2023. The new building would be between Tilles Elementary and Darby Middle School. It would look similar to other Mercy clinics around Fort Smith.
“I don’t think any of us could single-handedly do this alone,” Tucker said. “It is taking all of us working together to be able to provide the school-based, health care services.”
She said a health care center cuts down on the number of absences and helps improve academic performances, as well as decreasing discipline problems with counseling offered. It is open to students, staff and their immediate family members.
At the board meeting Monday night, board member Dee Blackwell said, “I can’t tell you how proud I am of our campus-based health care center. I think it is an asset to the community,” Blackwell said. “And the students and the teachers and the staff and just the parents in that community it is just a tremendous service. So thank you.”
The health center is open year-round during normal weekday hours.
Sports physicals, laboratory testing, crisis intervention, group and family therapy is offered at the center. State grant money has funded programs.
The district’s health center has been in a building leased from the city. A permanent structure will be built as the Fort Smith Public Schools Health Center.
The current health center has served students in a portable building near Darby Middle School and Tilles Elementary that opened in 2021 on H Street between the two schools. The health center serves any district students. As of June 30, the health center had provided mental health service to 1,883 students and health service to 1,118 people including 514 students and 674 adults.
A partnership between Fort Smith Public Schools, Mercy Clinic-Fort Smith and the Western Arkansas Counseling will operate the center.
The estimated cost for construction of the new center is $1.2 million. The board approved the plan unanimously, 6-0. Also approved Monday night was the $2.2 million Peak Innovation Center Storm Shelter, a child nutrition freezer upgrade for the district, $1.5 million, Peak Innovation parking drainage, $1.1 million, and additional Peak parking $300,000.


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