April 12, 2024

There is a fully built health center for Brockton High School. Why no one uses it.

BROCKTON – Brockton High School students attend school just 2.5 miles from an untapped resource that has been in high use for about a year. The tool is a health clinic: four modular units that together form a 3,000-square-foot health clinic, ready to be installed on the high school campus serving 3,700 students.

The project was a collaboration between the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and Brockton Schools, which started more than two years ago. Using grants and some of their own resources, the health center covered nearly $1 million in construction costs and was prepared to staff the units as well.

“At least one full-time caregiver, a nurse practitioner or pediatrician, a nurse and one to two behavioral therapists,” says Maria Celli, deputy CEO of the health center.

Brockton High School Health Clinic
Four modular units for the proposed Brockton High School health clinic

CBS Boston

But over the past year, the project has been stalled in the Brockton School District’s legal department, and Celli says the health center has been forced to choose between holding onto hope for the project or putting the units up for sale.

“We were never told no. We were never told yes,” she said. “It’s just very difficult for us as health care providers to not be able to meet the need when we know we have the infrastructure to do so.”

Safety issues at Brockton High School

The robbery comes at a difficult time for students in the City of Champions, as concerns about fighting inside the high school escalated last month when four school committee members wrote a letter to Governor Maura Healey last month requested the National Guard come to the school to help with staff shortages. “Our high school has experienced a disturbing increase in violence-related incidents,” the letter said. “Instances of students wandering the hallways, arguing and causing disruptions in classrooms have become alarmingly frequent.”

Related: What’s really going on inside Brockton High School

There are many reported funding issues for the school district. An $18 million budget shortfall discovered last summer led to 113 teacher layoffs in the district.

Health center could reduce barriers

Reports from the district and the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center have also identified health concerns among students. About 40% of Brockton students are not meeting vaccination requirements, according to Health Center data. And according to a 2020 survey of Brockton School Guidance Counselors, 39% said they were aware of a child intentionally hurting themselves. 36% were aware of a child who attempted suicide, the survey found.

Dr. Michael Curry, head of the League of Neighborhood Health Centers and a Brockton resident, says an on-site health center could reduce barriers to health care for students.

“They’re dealing with their oral health needs, their eye needs, they may be struggling with mental health or depression or substance use disorders,” Curry said.

The school health center model is nothing new. The second and third largest high schools in Massachusetts in Lawrence and Lowell have their own centers. Worcester has seven. Brockton, which has the largest high school in Massachusetts, has none.

Why did the project stall?

WBZ received a statement from Brockton Public Schools saying, “There were ultimately numerous challenges and logistical obstacles that made it infeasible.”

The Brockton School-Based Health Center was built as a structure separate from the physical high school, but close to campus. Most other school health centers are located in schools or directly attached to them. Celli said that option was not available due to lack of space at Brockton High School and asbestos in the walls of the schools.

According to the district, the land for the health center would have required a “legal procurement process.” Celli says the Health Center was prepared to make a bid in that process.

“That procurement process never got off the ground,” Celli said.

The district also states that it would have been necessary to install underground utilities for the units. In addition, the district’s future space needs are mentioned.

“We are investigating the feasibility of replacing the existing Brockton High School building,” the statement said.

Celli says the health center went through an approval process with the school committee, city council, planning board, zoning board and conservation committee before the units were built.

No solution in sight

With no solution in sight, Celli says some of the units are up for sale.

“We know very well that there is a major problem with access to primary care across the Commonwealth and if we cannot use these modular structures in this community it saddens us, but we do want them to be used,” she said .

WBZ reached out to Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan, who is also chairman of the Brockton School Committee, and several current and former city officials for comment on this story. No one made themselves available for comment via camera.

Full statement from Brockton Public Schools:

While the concept and opportunity to create a school-based health center within Brockton High School is certainly appealing, there were ultimately numerous challenges and logistical obstacles that made it unfeasible.

Due to the limitations of space that could have been made available within Brockton High School, which prevented our future partner from being able to deliver the proposed holistic health model, we worked with them to identify alternatives.

The model that was most thoroughly explored was one in which the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center would utilize modular structures near the high school building and on the high school grounds. However, as work on this approach progressed, we encountered key questions centering on land availability, the additional legal requirements, costs and liabilities associated with utility construction, and the lack of a truly comparable model given the circumstances.

The district’s concern throughout this process was to not only ensure that student health needs were met, but also to ensure that each school health center was established appropriately and in accordance with all applicable legal requirements, rather than simply in the most appropriate way. As the parties discussed these issues, the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center expressed its desire to locate limited operations and services in the Brockton High School building, an option we are currently discussing together.

We appreciate our partnership with the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, which came to fruition last week in the form of a resource fair that helped newcomers to the Brockton community make connections to vital resources, including medical care, insurance and more essential services.

When we explored the possibility of establishing a school-based health center in modular units on school grounds, we encountered the following logistical and procedural challenges:

Expansion of utilities

As the conversation about modular units continued, it became clear that there would be a need to install and maintain underground utilities for a school health center. This created a wide range of challenges, including whether the district should participate in the public procurement process for construction projects. In addition, there were unresolved questions about who would be responsible for these utility lines, which would have been permanent infrastructure intended to support an inherently temporary structure owned and operated by a private entity.

Public bidding process

Any use of land outside the school building would require a land lease which can only be granted after carrying out a lawful public tender procedure. This would have meant that the project would have been awarded to the bidder who offered the most favorable terms to the district. There would never have been any guarantee that the project would be awarded to the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.

Any bidding process would have been fair and open, and while we would have welcomed BNHC’s formal proposal, it would have been considered on its merits and in relation to the merits of any other provider who might have chosen to participate process to participate.

At no point was the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center provided with a notice to proceed, which would have indicated that there was a clear path to opening a school-based health center at Brockton High, and that any purchases made prematurely or without full did due diligence, were focused on his costs. own risk.

Lack of comparable models

Brockton Public Schools sought but did not receive an analysis of comparable school-based health center models from BNHC. Lowell is presented as a community where the school-based health center model has worked well, and at the most basic level we would like to replicate that in Brockton. The key difference, however, is that Lowell’s SBHCs are located in existing buildings. Taunton also has a school-based health center at Taunton High School and Parker Middle School. Like Lowell, this facility is located in an existing building, eliminating many of the logistical hurdles we face here in Brockton. Worcester, another district similar to Brockton, has its own school health centers, which are also housed in school buildings.

Future space needs

Brockton Public Schools is currently in the early stages of the Massachusetts School Building Authority process as we explore the feasibility of replacing the existing Brockton High School building with a new building or renovating the existing building.
As part of that process, if it were to evolve to the point where a new Brockton High School building is being pursued, it is essential to have as much flexibility as possible in terms of available land.

Providing a long-term leasehold to a third-party seller – and establishing utility connections at a potentially significant public cost to meet that seller’s needs – could ultimately have had a negative impact on the MSBA process and the feasibility of a new secondary school on the site of the existing building.

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