After months of planning, the Dolores school district has received a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to build an on-campus health clinic.
Dolores School District Re-4A applied for the grant this year after receiving a $25,000 planning grant from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to design the clinic in partnership with the Southwest Open School clinic in Cortez.
At the school board meeting on Thursday, Superintendent Scott Cooper said he had received word just a few days before that Dolores would receive the money. The board approved the $478,000 Health Foundation grant in a 4-1 vote. Vice president Rebecca Frasier voted against it.
Although the district still needs to request bids from architects to design the clinic, Cooper said the preliminary plan is to build an extension on the south end of the sixth-grade corner of the elementary school. The clinic will act as a satellite of the one at SWOS, and it will be open to the public, although its primary focus will be on treating students. Cooper said he still hopes to hire two more social workers to help care for students’ mental health needs, in addition to the two the district hired in June.
Cooper said he hopes to hire an architect this fall and start construction on the clinic as early as spring break.
“The goal is to have it open by the first day of school next year,” he said.
SWOS medical staff have been involved in planning since the district started pursuing a clinic in spring. Rebecca Gostlin, a behavioral health provider at the SWOS clinic, said they will spend the next few months forming plans for operation and staffing at the Dolores clinic. The first step will be to put together a “community advisory board” made up of parents and other interested citizens in Dolores, she said. While the Dolores clinic will be modeled on the one at SWOS, Gostlin said her staff and the school district still have many decisions to make before they decide how it will look in a different town.
“It’ll be different, because it’s a different school, a different community,” she said.
As part of the planning process funded by the CDHE grant, the school district is conducting a survey of parents in Dolores to learn about their children’s health needs. A link to the survey was sent in an email to parents in the district earlier this month, and Cooper said he believed it was also on the school website’s home page, but it did not appear to be there on Friday afternoon.
Frasier objected to accepting the grant because the district won’t have final results from the survey until after its Sept. 29 deadline. She also said she didn’t believe the district should move forward with the clinic’s construction without hard data on its ongoing costs. The grant does not include funding for operating or other costs after the clinic is finished.
“We’re approving the grant even though we don’t have all the information,” Frasier said. “Wouldn’t it be better to wait until we get all the answers in first?”
Cooper said waiting another month for the grant would make it much harder to finish the clinic by next year.
The board approved the grant, along with several other action items such as approving an extracurricular pay increase for athletic coaches, in a single vote. Frasier said she attempted to make a motion for the board to remove the grant approval and pay increase and vote on them as separate items, but did not receive a second, so she voted “no” on all the action items.