The money will fund a school-based clinic at a new state-of-the-art high school under construction in Bradshaw that will combine students from Big Creek and Iaeger. The school is slated to open in 2009. Both students and community members will be able to use the clinic once it opens.
“This clinic will help fill a healthcare void in this area,” said McDowell County Superintendent Mark Manchin. “Students and members of the community alike will be able to get the health screenings and care they so desperately need.”
A similar clinic received a $290,000 grant to operate at Mount View Middle/High School in Welch as a joint project between the McDowell County Board of Education and the Tug River Health Association. That clinic is staffed with a physician’s assistant and nurse and a dentist also is available on certain days. The new clinic also will be similarly staffed by Tug River.
A survey of students conducted by McDowell County schools found that more than half of the county's children had never been to a doctor and nearly all had never seen a dentist. More than 80 percent of students also qualify for free or reduced lunch, one of the highest rates in the state while residents rank among the lowest in West Virginia in several high-risk factors, including heart disease, smoking and obesity.
The West Virginia Board of Education seized control of McDowell County schools in 2001, citing low test scores, shoddy school buildings and large numbers of uncertified teachers. They hired Manchin to help turn the system around.
Under state guidance, the county has made major changes in curriculum and personnel. New standards were adopted for honor students, Advanced Placement classes were added, a new auditorium was dedicated at Mount View and technology improvements continue.
“Good things are happening in McDowell County,” said state Superintendent Steve Paine. “There is excitement in the air about learning that had been missing before the intervention.”
McDowell County is currently in the middle of several school construction projects after being awarded about $73 million for new school construction from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the School Building Authority to replace flood-damaged and dilapidated schools.