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District leaders, STRIDE officials celebrate formal launch of two school-based health centers

Overland Health Center ribbon cutting ceremony held March 2.What began as an ambitious vision became a concrete reality this week, as officials from Cherry Creek Schools and STRIDE Community Health formally opened two school-based health centers designed to provide quality, equitable care to students and families from across the district.

The new health centers formally opened their doors at sites on the Overland/Prairie Middle School campus and at Horizon Community Middle School during ceremonies held on March 1 and 2. Officials from CCSD and STRIDE joined local dignitaries, community members and smiling students as they kicked off a new approach to healthcare in the Cherry Creek School District. The clinics, which each feature five exam rooms, state-of-the-art labs and other resources, will provide accessible, quality care to all students.

“Here’s what we understand: Students can’t learn if they’re not healthy, and we need to make sure that the basic needs of all of our students are being met,” said CCSD Superintendent Christopher Smith during the ceremony held at Horizon. “We’re bringing that access and opportunity to the entire community.”

The clinics are directly tied to the core values of the Cherry Creek School District, Smith added; these centers will serve the whole child, they’ll cater to students’ mental health and social/emotional needs and foster a growth mindset across the community. Equity and engagement were at the heart of the drive to build these centers, Smith said, and they were only possible because of the strong relationships built between CCSD, STRIDE and its other partners.

STRIDE President and CEO Ben Wiederholt spoke to these values during both ceremonies, and added that they align closely with those that have been central the healthcare organization since its founding in Aurora more than 30 years ago.

“Our core values are humanity, integrity, equity and excellence. At STRIDE, we don’t accept the current reality of too many students going without care,” Wiederholt said. “STRIDE and Cherry Creek Schools share one common vision. We share the vision of a community-based model of care that offers a full continuum of services and cuts through barriers.”

The new facilities will offer the CCSD community primary care clinics that can provide a variety of age-appropriate services, including mental and behavioral care, dental care, vision care and referrals, nutritional counseling, health education, acute care with providers and other services. The two centers will also offer permanent health care settings to students and families alike, providing more health care options and ultimately more opportunities for patients to self-advocate for their own health and wellness in a way that is racially and culturally responsive and equitable.

What’s more, these two centers could serve as an initial bridge to more facilities at more campuses across the district.

CCSD Board of Education members were present at both ceremonies. Directors Angela Garland and Janice McDonald spoke specifically to how the new clinics will positively impact their districts. “This is a dream come true,” Garland noted, while McDonald said that the new facilities “will allow our families to access the resources they need with dignity.” They paid tribute to Horizon Principal Dr. Brad Weindhold and Overland Principal Sybil Booker, as well as the late Aleshia Armour, Overland’s former principal, who played a key role in the process.

The new clinics are all the more remarkable, considering that they came together during a time of unmatched challenges. CCSD Chief Health Officer Michelle Weinraub spoke about the fact that district and STRIDE leadership successfully planned and completed the projects, even as Cherry Creek Schools dealt with the multiple challenges tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.Horizon Middle School ribbon cutting held March 1, 2022.

“These healthcare facilities were born from a goal that our team has had for several years and now cultivated through our wonderful partnership with STRIDE. Both of our organizations want to do what is right for our students and for our greater community,” Weinraub said. “Even during the past two years of the pandemic, the vision to create these school-based community health centers became a priority and a goal. It was something we worked to build while we continued the work of keeping our students healthy and learning in-person.”

That success came because of hard work from all corners, and the ceremonies this week celebrated all who made the new clinics possible, including former CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried, who first undertook the effort; architecture, construction and design firms Adolfson & Peterson and MOA Architecture; and the district’s own facility operations staff, including David Henderson, Mike Lovick, Katie Van Kooten and others.

“Cherry Creek Schools thinks outside of the box; we build partnerships so that we can meet the needs of our students,” Smith said.

-- Posted 3/2/2022 at 1 PM