Second Street Elementary School will open a medical clinic on campus next month designed to improve the health--and thus the performance--of its students.
The idea for the clinic, the first of its kind in a Los Angeles public school, stemmed from a brainstorming session a year ago among teachers and officials from White Memorial Medical Center, which has made a commitment to help run the Second Street Health Center for one year in a converted classroom. The hospital has promised to find a way to keep the clinic going after that.
"A lot of this came together very nicely," said fourth-grade teacher Sally Thomas, who heads the school's nonprofit foundation, which raised $35,000 for the effort. "We had to involve the larger community and reach out to them, and they were right there."
The Second Street School Foundation was established three years ago to fund field trips and workshops with the help of donations from actors such as Bette Midler, Dustin Hoffman, Sally Field, Tony Danza and agent Michael Ovitz. Thomas contacted them through a friend who runs Every Picture Tells a Story, an art gallery in the Fairfax District that features original artwork from children's books. Pop singer Kenny Loggins held a fund-raising concert there last spring for the foundation.
The entertainers, Thomas said, "came back to us and said they could see where the money was going to go to the children."
With health screenings, medical exams, immunizations and education in place, Principal Alma Monroe said she hopes to bring attendance up to 95% from last year's 92%. The clinic is scheduled to open Feb. 14.
A physician's assistant will work five days a week in the clinic, and other staff members from White Memorial have expressed interest in volunteering, said Alida Durej, director of business development for the Southern California Healthcare Network, which oversees White.
So far, a nurse hired by the hospital visits the school once a week to give lessons on nutrition and hygiene and to offer basic medical information to the children. The Los Angeles Unified School District also sends a nurse to the school once a week.
But with 900 students, Monroe said, the school needs a medical professional every day to reduce the time students spend out of class and get them healthy enough to return. The school lost $102,000 last year in state funds tied to attendance, she said.
"There's no sense in trying to educate people who are not healthy and can't contribute," she said.
The clinic will also address the school's high percentage of poor students who are not getting basic medical attention, said bilingual coordinator Carmen Hale. Two-thirds of the students live in the Pico Gardens housing project.
"There are a lot of our students who eat only the food we serve at breakfast and lunch every day," Hale said. "If they can't afford the food, they're not going to be able to afford to see a doctor."
The students have also gotten involved, collecting pennies and holding competitions between the classrooms to see who raises the most. So far, the students have collected $361. They have set a goal of 1 million pennies by June.
One third-grade student gave $5 of his birthday money, after he asked his parents to convert the money into pennies. Teachers have used the penny collections in math games.
"It's been the right people in the right places to do this for the children that has made this possible," Monroe said. "It's been people reaching beyond their regular jobs to do this."