DPS school-based health center now open; will serve students and community

By Elizabeth J. Lolli, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Dayton Public Schools

The Dayton Public Schools opened its first school-based health center at Roosevelt Elementary on Friday, February 20th in partnership with Five Rivers Health Centers.

The DPS health center will serve students and the Dayton community regardless of health insurance or ability to pay. The 5,300-square-foot health center has three medical exam rooms, four dental exam chairs, two vision exam lanes and a room for a Behavioral Health Consultant. The center will offer a full range of services, including immunizations, annual physicals, dental cleanings and vision screenings. The center will also provide glasses to DPS students who need them.

This is an important step for DPS because research shows that attendance is directly linked to the health of students. The district began its Be Present for a Better Future attendance campaign in August and is already seeing positive results — about 4.5% more students are on track with their attendance compared to last year. With the addition of the health center, we expect to see continued improvement.

According to Attendance Works, a national nonprofit aimed at reducing absenteeism, illness and lack of access to health care are leading causes of excused and unexcused student absences. Students with unmanaged asthma miss 14 million days of school each year, for example. Dental problems account for nearly two million missed days.

The health care of parents is also important. When a parent is ill, they may not be able to get a student to and from school. Health plays such a large role in absenteeism that it can be directly linked to achievement gaps and dropout rates, according to Attendance Works.

A 2019 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that school-based health centers have been shown to improve education outcomes, GPA and graduation rates. This is largely because school-based health centers can provide services to sick students who would have been sent home from school or missed school altogether. Many of the findings are significant. For example, African American male students who use school-based health centers are three times more likely to stay in school than their peers who do not.

Another crucial aspect of improving attendance is providing mental health care for students. Each Dayton Public School will have Student Resiliency Coordinators, and the health center will have a Behavioral Health Consultant on staff. The Dayton Board of Education committed to an increased focus on health care this school year in light of the trauma many in the Dayton community have experienced over the last year.

To ensure all students can take advantage of the school-based health center, non-Roosevelt students will be transported to the facility during the school day when needed. School nurses will continue to see students as usual, but if a student needs services beyond what they can provide, they will be taken to the health center.

The district constantly evaluates the needs of students and provides more resources as necessary. We are excited to be opening up our health center to students, staff and the community and see the impact it will have on our schools and in Dayton. DPS is committed to opening additional school-based health centers in the future to continue to improve the lives of our students.