Bringing health back to school

As principal of Terra Linda Middle School in San Carlos, Lesley Martin often saw kids whose schedules were jam-packed all day. The students were stressed out.

“The kids come to school with a lot on their plate, and you see it all the time,” Martin said. “There’s a concern that they’re never really able to be a kid and be able to play.”

Now, Martin is becoming the school district’s wellness coordinator, one of several positions funded by a three-year, $4.5 million initiative that the Sequoia Healthcare District is sponsoring for four school districts with a combined 23,000 students in Redwood City and San Carlos.

Familiar images of school health programs might be a nurse bandaging up a playground scrape or a counselor meeting with a troubled child, but administrators say the Healthy Schools initiative will focus on all aspects, including student health education programs and nutritious meals.

Martin said she hopes to increase education about time management for kids and parents.

“Truly, wellness is an all-encompassing program and you’re looking at the whole child,” she said.

Healthy Schools will provide a boost to the Sequoia Union High School District and three elementary school districts — San Carlos, Redwood City and Belmont-Redwood Shores — at a time when schools have been facing serious cutbacks, including laying off staff.

“This is just an absolutely wonderful collaboration with the health care district to allow us to focus on wellness and student health at a time of tremendous state cutbacks,” Redwood City School District Superintendent Jan Christensen said.

Under the initiative, which kicks off this month, the funding will pay for one nurse and one wellness coordinator at all four school districts, plus a psychologist, health educator and physical education teacher for all three elementary districts. Districts will assess their existing health policies and obtain funding for new programs, such as expanding campus gardens or bringing local produce into school nutrition plans.

“These were the elements that made California education the best in the nation in the past, so we felt we wanted to go back to that excellence,” said Don Horsley, president of the board for the taxpayer-funded health care district that encompasses cities in southern San Mateo County.

Redwood High School in the Sequoia Union High School District will have its own licensed vocational nurse and will be able to bolster a teen-mothers program, Superintendent Jim Lianides said.

“This is really going to provide a lot of direct support for those students,” Lianides said. 

Thinking healthy

The $4.5 million Healthy Schools initiative from the Sequoia Healthcare District will pay for additional staff at four school districts in Redwood City and San Carlos, plus expanded programs.

  • Four nurses
  • Four wellness coordinators
  • Three school psychologists
  • Three health educators
  • Three physical education teachers
  • Expanded programs, including school gardens and Safe Routes to Schools

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