Healthy Start site riles Smith River parents

February 20, 2002 12:00 am

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

What began as a project to help the Smith River community is now angering parents and others who say their childrens safety may be at stake.

Theres talk that a lot of parents simply wont send their kids to school here not when there are adult services provided on an elementary school campus, said Linda Wilson, a member of the Smith River School Site Council.

The new Healthy Start facility opening this month at Smith River School will provide medical and mental health programs to students and their families. Among the services are counseling for adults with drug and alcohol addiction.

Wilson and her supporters are not opposed to such a facility, but are opposed to where its going to be located.

They came and plunked the building right in the middle of the campus. And the building looks exactly like the other portable classrooms, so we may have people with serious problems wandering around campus wondering where to go, Wilson said.

The problem began when the Del Norte County Unified School District won a grant to buy the portable building and help fund Healthy Start programs within it.

Winning that grant was dependent on the support of the community where the facility would be located.

Wilson, who has a child attending seventh-grade at Smith River, and P.T.A. President Loretta Stoner, and their organizations, gave their support, but only if the facility were located away from the campus on a nearby parking lot.

But once the building arrived for installation, school officials realized it would cost an unexpected $50,000 to move sewer and electrical hook-ups to the parking lot location, according to the districts grant writer Karen Brohmer. So, the building was instead located closer to existing sewer and electrical connections.

Unfortunately, I think it was a matter of miscommunication. When the grant was funded, the principal left to go to another school, another principal went on sick leave and then principal Jeff Napier stepped in, Brohmer said, indicating that information had not been communicated well to everyone involved in the project.

What concerns the schools on-site council, the Smith River Kiwanis Club and the P. T. A. is that anyone going in or out of the facility for the well-known services it provides will be viewed by about 150 students, according to Wilson and Stoner.

The Healthy Start building doors face several classroom windows only a few feet away.

Were concerned theres no privacy for the kids going in there to get lice treatment and for their safety. Adults will be coming onto campus during school hours for help. With all the stuff you read nowadays, you dont want more people coming onto the schoolgrounds you want to keep them off, Wilson said.

It is one duty of each schools on-site council to make a safety plan for their school and Wilson said having this facility where it is does not lend to safety.

Brohmer said any concerns are really hypothetical now, because the facility wont open until Feb. 25. She added that only programs the community wants and needs will be implemented.

Theres a similar facility at Two Trees Healthy Start near the high school and so far we are only servicing children. We also do well-baby exams and immunizations. Plus the programs are all voluntary, no one has to use them, Brohmer said.

The groups opposed to the location of the facility will meet with the public and school district officials tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Smith River Community Hall on First Street.