Child Health, Coronavirus

During COVID-19 pandemic, School-Based Health Centers will be open at 34 schools this fall

Keith Seinfeld, Public Health – Seattle & King County

The school-based health center at Rainier Beach High School.

Even though most schools are starting with online learning this fall, more than 30 campuses will be open for in-person health-care services.

They have School-Based Health Centers that offer routine primary care, including vaccinations, as well as mental health counseling. Several even have dental services. Seasonal flu vaccine will also be available.

The health centers serve any student enrolled in the participating school districts. They operate at 27 Seattle Public Schools, including all high schools and middle schools, along with a number of elementary schools. Five additional centers serve students in the Bellevue, Highline, Renton, and Vashon school districts. The centers are independent clinics based inside schools or on school campuses, staffed by health professionals.

Two new centers will be opening this fall, at Lowell Elementary and at Nova High School in Seattle.

“The need for basic health-care hasn’t gone away just because students are learning from home. In fact, many families may be struggling to get health-care access, and they may have fallen behind on routine vaccinations, which protect against many common childhood diseases. Routine vaccines and seasonal influenza vaccine are more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re grateful our partners are committed to maintaining access to these health centers,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health—Seattle & King County.

Public Health coordinates the network of 34 clinics, and directly operates three locations. All the others staffed and operated by community health-care providers, which compete through a Request for Application process to provide health services.

A wide range of services, helping close the opportunity gap

Even while schools are remote, vaccinations are one of the best ways to keep students healthy and ready to learn. Students who are behind on required vaccinations will need to be in compliance before scheduled in-person learning begins.

“School-based health investments are an important tool in eliminating race-based opportunity gaps and ensuring that students furthest from educational justice can access the health services that will better equip them for educational and life success. We’d like to thank Director Patty Hayes and all our partners at Public Health – Seattle & King County for the work they’re doing to serve Seattle students through our school-based health centers,” said Dwane Chappelle, Director of the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning.

The school health centers also offer nutrition education, promote supportive relationships, and reinforce positive self-images. Dental services will be available to all students in Seattle at Mercer Middle School and Chief Sealth High School. Vashon students can also get dental care at school.

The school health centers have introduced new protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as staggering appointment times and limiting the number of people who enter the facility.

In Seattle, School-Based Health Centers are funded in part by the voter-approved Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy. Centers in other cities are funded in part by the voter-approved Best Starts for Kids Levy.

See a list of comprehensive School-Based Health Centers (openings are subject to change and hours may be limited – call before visiting)

Originally published on September 1, 2020.

I’m part of the communications team at Public Health – Seattle & King County and work closely with all of the programs in the Community Health Services Division.