SHELBY — Shelby Middle School may be closing for class, but the building will serve a new purpose in the years to come. 

The district will open a new Pre-K thru 8th grade facility next fall. Part of the current middle school will be used as office space for the board of education, while another part will be transformed to meet an identified need in the community.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital will open a school-based health center (SBHC) to serve the Shelby community. Nationwide will fund the project through a contract with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). 

“Think of a stand-alone primary care facility,” said Shelby Supt. Tim Tarvin. “This one just happens to be on our property.

“(Nationwide) is an excellent organization and we feel flattered and honored that they sought us out to participate with them.”

Tarvin said the SBHC will likely open in the spring of 2023.

“We’re in the planning stages right now of what this is actually going to look like,” he added.

Nationwide received a $3.24 million contract with ODH to partner with four Ohio school districts, including Shelby, Mount Vernon City Schools, Reynoldsburg City Schools and Columbus City Schools. 

The provider has allocated $874,104 of its $3.24 million contract to build new SBHCs in Shelby and Mount Vernon. The funds will be used to design and construct the facilities, as well as purchase and operate medical equipment.

“School-based health centers are expensive to own and operate,” said Mary Kay Irwin, senior director of school health services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“With funding opportunities like this one offered by the Ohio Department of Health, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the other funded providers across the state are able to build new centers or expand existing ones to reach more students in our communities.”

Irwin said SBHCs have been shown to have a positive impact on health and academic outcomes.

“A primary goal of our work is to eliminate non-academic barriers to learning,” she said. “School-based health centers offer comprehensive services – like a pediatrician’s office – that help ensure students are in school, healthy and ready to learn.”

SBHCs are typically implemented in areas with reduced access to medical care. According to the Ohio School Based Health Alliance, only 54 percent of Ohio’s children have an established medical provider, and only 39 percent of children enrolled in Medicaid have regular well visits.

The Shelby City Health Department identified a lack of providers and appointment times in the area as a primary concern among Shelby residents.

“We’re a very supportive community, but one in which the access to primary care is limited,” Tarvin said. “This is not any grand scheme to replace family doctors that families already have.

“This is just to give more access, more options to parents that don’t have a family pediatrician.”

Due to a lack of primary care options in Shelby, families often have to leave the city for doctor’s appointments. Tarvin said this can be especially difficult for single or working parents.

“This kind of alleviates that burden on parents,” he said of the clinic. “You miss less class, Mom and Dad miss less work.”

Older children will be allowed to attend appointments alone if needed, but all appointments will require parental consent.

“Nothing happens without parental consent,” Tarvin said. “Kids can only walk in with an appointment that has been created with prior parental consent.”

Irwin said that successful SBHCs are ones that engage and involve their communities.

“Outreach and engagement are crucial to the success of a school-based health center throughout the entire process, from planning to implementation to sustainability,” she said.

“Getting community feedback – from youth, caregivers, educators and other community members – early on and regularly, helps to make sure the center meets the needs of the community and is a worthwhile investment.”

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