The Dolores school district is moving forward with a plan to provide health care as well as education to its students next year.
In March, the district received a $25,000 planning grant from the Colorado Department of Health to design a school-based medical clinic. With the help of that money, they created a possible design for the clinic, which they presented in a public meeting on Thursday. Superintendent Scott Cooper hopes to get a revised version of the design approved by the school board soon, so that he can use it in another grant application, this time to cover construction costs.
The design Cooper and Flanagan showed to the handful of people who came to the meeting Thursday afternoon sketched out a remodel of the current Dolores High School building, converting classrooms and teacher’s lounges into medical exam rooms. After much discussion, including input from several staff members at Southwest Open School’s health clinic, they decided it would be cheaper to build a new building adjacent to the school.
Cooper, who has championed the idea of a school-based health clinic since January, said he still believes it will be worth the effort the district has put into it.
“We have recently lost ... the only medical clinic in town, Dr. Burnside’s,” he said. “We also, this year, experienced a lot of mental health needs, and part of this programming would involve a behavioral health specialist.”
Since the new clinic will essentially be a satellite of the one at SWOS, the Dolores district has hired the same architect to design it. Flanagan runs an architectural firm based in Durango, and has worked on several schools and school-based facilities throughout the Four Corners area. His initial design recommended turning a teacher’s work room and office in the high school into exam rooms and a behavioral health room, while one entrance would lead into a waiting room and reception area instead of the principal’s office.
Although everyone who spoke up during Thursday’s meeting was largely in favor of Flanagan’s design, by the end of the meeting Cooper and the three SWOS representatives who attended decided it would be outside their budget. The district is hoping to secure a $500,000 grant from the Department of Health for the project, and Cooper said re-arranging the plumbing and walls in the high school building would cost much more than that.
“We were trying to accomplish a little too much, I think, with what we had funding for, or what we could possibly get funding for,” he said after the meeting.
Now Flanagan plans to create a design nearly identical to the existing SWOS clinic, which he’ll present to the Dolores school board on Wednesday.
But several features from the original design will carry over into the new one, Cooper said. One of those features, which led to much discussion at Thursday’s meeting, is the introduction of gender neutral restrooms, something Flanagan said he had never been asked to do before.
“This is going to be kind of the wave of the future,” he said. “I was definitely intrigued by it.”
Cooper said that, with more high school and elementary students coming out as transgender, he thought this would be a good way to accommodate all students’ needs in the future, and mentioned that several newer buildings along the Front Range have taken a similar approach. Flanagan’s design called for fully enclosed toilet cubicles and a shared sink area. Everyone at the meeting seemed to support the idea, but Kaari Milligin, the high school secretary, asked if the bathrooms could have a transparent or half wall facing the hallway to allow staff to supervise the shared area.
“If there is an issue, there’s no eyes in that spot,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you who did what, where, when.”
Cooper and Flanagan said they would consider adding that to the design.
The next draft of the clinic’s design will still include two exam rooms, a behavioral health room, a waiting room and an intake room where basic tests and triage can be performed, according to Cooper. But he said the layout will mimic the SWOS clinic more closely than the first design. He and Flanagan hope to get a plan approved quickly so that they can submit it to the Department of Health. The deadline for their grant application is this fall, although construction on the clinic won’t begin until next year.