Originally published Feb. 10, 2021 by the Daily Journal Online.
By Mark Marberry
With the Farmington R-7 School District in its second year of implementing the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model, improvements are being reported in the district's taking care of student needs.
Dr. Ashley Krause is associate superintendent for the Farmington School District and leads the Health and Wellness Committee in implementing WSCC. The committee is comprised of faculty, administration, and healthcare professionals, along with members of the community.
“It is a system that really originated with the CDC, they brought it into the education realm,” she said. “It is a structure that takes 10 different components and wraps them around into a system as opposed to just ‘silos’. For example, one component would be physical education, another would be school climate and culture and another would be health services.
"In those three components alone, I’m looking at it as physical education teachers working beside nurses working beside counselors and social workers. If you add all 10 of those, it really represents this full system that everyone doesn’t work in isolation; they take their strengths and work together through communication, enrichment and programming to make sure that you’re providing really good service to your students.”
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System determined:
• 51.4% of high school students did not participate in 60 minutes of exercise on five or more days per week.
• 17.7% seriously thought about suicide.
• 20% were bullied on school property, and 15% were electronically bullied.
• 25.6% hadn’t seen a dentist in the last 12 months before the survey.
• 72.7% did not get eight or more hours of sleep each night.
As a trained educator, Kraus sees a lot of isolation where information isn’t shared across professional disciplines.
“Because we are trained in our specific areas — for instance a nurse is trained as a nurse, and we want them to be trained as a nurse — it would be very natural for them to only look at the health component or a need of chronic health. What we are asking is for each individual component to look into the entire system.
"We want the nurse working with the physical education teachers, so that if we are looking at chronic health - how are asthmatics affected by physical education. If you could look at connections instead of your one narrow scope, you’re sharing information and working as a team moving forward.”
At the beginning of implementation, Krause created a Health and Wellness Committee to advise the district on solutions. Even though the first year was mainly education on the WSCC program, she has already started seeing the benefits of having a program that isn’t even fully in place.
“When we shut down for Covid, because we had that WSCC system in place, our nutrition and food service person, who is on the Health and Wellness Committee, immediately reached out and we had our coaches and safety people delivering food alongside our cafeteria workers. They could go out and make sure parents had enough food, services or school supplies. Instead of just dropping off a meal, you’re looking at what other needs does this family have.”
Another example Krause gave was improvements in physical fitness for students throughout the day.
“Our physical education teachers were pretty much the only people that were preaching kids have to get out,” she said. “Once they’re allowed to have that conversation, teachers and administrators started to work with health officials to have ‘brain breaks’ and have little exercise moments or activities. When they’re physically fit, emotionally fit and socially fit, they’re much better and well-rounded, and your academics are going to be taken care of.”
Krause said that Farmington has been working with Laura Beckmann, wellness coordinator with Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“We have been asked to pilot a lot of this system and to reach out to others to help implement this,” Krause said. “What we’ve learned is that we are more efficient, we are getting good feedback from our community. We are having dialog with the St. Francois County Health Department with drug rehab and prevention. We are able to make more community connections. The community tells what our weaknesses are as well.”
According to Krause, additions have been made to classes and staff to better meet the overall needs of the student body.
“We have a drug recovery classroom,” she said. “We’ve able to add an additional social worker to our staff. We will be able to add an additional health teacher. An additional nurse has been added. Great Mines Health is going to move in at the high school.”
Although the Farmington School District’s Health and Wellness Committee postponed their recent meeting due to weather, the district will be having their Wellness Day on Feb. 12. The day will consist of sessions geared at in-house staff development.
“This year we have a nationally known keynote speaker, Dr. Ben Springer,” Krause said. “He is a mental health specialist. It will be in house and virtual. The keynote will all be virtual to keep things safe.
“We bring outside professionals to provide some of those professional development sessions. We have over 40 different community vendors coming in from outside to provide screenings and immunizations and other things. We bring outside people in, and it’s an opportunity for us to mix with the community. Health officials will come in. We have 25 breakout sessions this year for our staff to attend, they get to choose based on their needs.”