Clinic facilities

The Pine Forest Clinic, a first step towards a community school in partnership

Public schools in Escambia County have taken the first steps toward what administrators hope will be the transformation of Pine Forest High School in a community partnership school.

Community partner schools take a holistic approach to meeting the needs of students and their families. They may include on-site resources such as clinics, food pantries, after-school programs, and parent resource centers.

Last week, the Escambia Children’s Trust spent $77,658 to the overall project, which includes the hiring of a Community Partnership School Principal and the establishment of a pediatric health clinic on the Pine Forest campus.

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Escambia County Public Schools and Northwest Florida Community Health are joining forces to replicate a community clinic like this at CA Weis Elementary at Pine Forest High School.

The Pine Forest Medical Clinic will be modeled after the clinic in C. A. Weis Elementary School, which is already a community partnership school.

“It’s exciting because of the window of opportunity it opens up,” said Superintendent Tim Smith of the future Pine Forest Clinic.

Society of Children’s HomesCommunity Health Northwest Florida and the University of West Florida collaborate to provide services to CA Weis, and Smith added that he sees the organizations partnership transferring and expanding easily to the Pine Forest campus.

“When those elements come into play — like the Pine Forest Community Health Medical Clinic — it’s a strong statement of community support,” Smith said of the opportunity to seek a Community Partnership School designation.

“It positions us for good demand from partner community schools,” he said.

Melissa Byrd, a pediatric nurse practitioner, prepares for her next patient at the Northwest Florida Community Health Clinic at CA Weis Elementary School on Friday.  Escambia County Public Schools and Northwest Florida Community Health are joining forces to replicate a similar clinic at Pine Forest High School.

The Children’s Home Society was a founding partner of the Community Partnership Schools model and is a key partner in 21 such schools across Florida, including Weis. The model involves four or more primary partners, usually a school district, a reputable nonprofit organization, a healthcare provider, and a college or university. Each partner is committed to the effort for at least 25 years.

Chandra Smiley, CEO of Community Health Northwest Florida, echoed Smith’s sentiments that local stakeholders coming together for the clinic is a good first step.

“It starts to position us to put all of these things in place so that we can apply for a community school grant that will really help them get it and make it an accredited community school,” Smiley said.

What will the Pine Forest Clinic offer?

The new Pine Forest Clinic will be housed in a mobile classroom where Community Health Northwest Florida will house a pediatrician and accompanying support and registration staff.

The plan is for clinic staff to have regular interactions not only with students at Pine Forest, but also with students from surrounding schools – Longleaf Elementary School, Bellview Middle School and Bellview High School.

However, its services will also be open to everyone in Escambia County.

Students will be able to receive annual exams at the clinic, receive vaccinations and have their vaccinations updated.

Escambia County Public Schools and Northwest Florida Community Health are joining forces to replicate a community clinic like this at CA Weis Elementary at Pine Forest High School.

Smiley said that immediate access was invaluable.

“If you have a child, let’s say he’s sick, we could start treatment pretty quickly to reduce the number of days he’s out of school,” Smiley said.

Like the CA Weis clinic, the Pine Forest clinic will be family-oriented.

“Weis’ clinic serves students and serves the community, and it serves many families,” Smiley said. “You may have a student at Weis, but we also take care of all the siblings, who may be younger. It’s a way to help take care of an entire family unit.”

Emily King, assistant manager of Pine Forest, said “anything that allows us to build our relationship with our community” would be positive.

“We’re a high-needs school with a lot of high-needs students — we’re so big and we’re growing every year,” King said.

Pine Forest’s student body numbers just over 1,900.

“If you’re sitting here thinking about what would be the closest medical facility, most of them you think of are tiny clinics at CVS or Walgreens,” King said. “So to have something available to our community and our students that’s close to home – because transportation is an issue for a lot of them – that’s going to be fantastic.”

Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at colinwarrenhicks@pnj.com or 850-435-8680.