Rochester Memorial School Nurse Ellen Murphy says she has wanted to bring dental health care to RMS students for quite some time, and she is now hoping the Rochester School Committee will consider allowing her to collaborate with Smile Programs of Massachusetts.
Smile Programs, said Murphy, is a comprehensive school-based dental program that can deliver a dental program to the school via a mobile dental van and provide preventative and restorative dental care inside the school building to students in need of the service.
The cost of the dental care is covered for students who receive Medicaid or CHIP, and the services to uninsured students are affordable, Murphy said.
As Murphy summarized for the committee, tooth decay (cavities) is the most common childhood chronic disease, affecting 60% of the population. A child with chronic cavities is four times more likely to have a lower grade point average, and cavities are more common in children than asthma. Furthermore, cavities can lead to further tooth loss, other health problems, and problems with speaking, eating, and learning, she added.
Murphy said Smile Programs contacted RMS, asking if the school might be interested in adopting the program.
“Our free and reduced lunch rate in town has now reached fifteen percent, so that’s kind of how we popped out to qualify for getting this program here,” said Murphy.
In order to establish the program at RMS, a minimum of 15 students are needed to sign up.
The professional dentists and dental hygienists would perform routine teeth cleanings, x-rays, fillings, fluoride treatments, and sealants on the spot.
“I have for a while wanted to kind of do something in the dental area because it is so important,” Murphy said. “I just haven’t been able to get that up and running, so when [the program] approached me with this, I was really excited to have the opportunity to offer it to our families.”
Murphy is not sure at this point whether or not there is a real need at RMS to provide the dental services in school since she receives students’ health records but not dental records.
Principal Derek Medeiros said the dental services would take place during similar time blocks as when the school nurse performs her other health screenings, being mindful of important class times when students must be in class.
“We tend to try to do it first thing before the kids start their day,” said Medeiros. “We definitely try to do it within those areas and not in the middle of an ELA block.”
Murphy said she would gather feedback from teachers about their time preference for dental screenings, and possibly investigate whether services could take place after school as well.
Parents would be allowed to accompany their child during the dental exam, and a letter along with a permission form would be sent home to parents ahead of time.
Murphy agreed to seek the answers to a number of questions the committee had and report back at the next meeting.
In other business, Business Administrator Patrick Spencer said the most recent draft of the Rochester school budget for fiscal year 2019 is at $6,256,000 – an increase from FY18 of about $179,000 or 2.96%.
“We came to an agreement that that was what we would bring forward to the budget subcommittee,” said Superintendent Doug White.
Spencer said a significant reason for the increase is an increase in students considering Bristol County Agricultural High School, with eight students currently included in the FY19 budget.
The cost is roughly $20,000 per student to attend Bristol Aggie.
“[The overall budget increase] has nothing to do with what’s going on in this building,” Spencer said, “but the town and the school budget is responsible for that cost. It’s just something that people should be aware of.”
School Committee Chairman Tina Rood said an upcoming curriculum change in social studies could also affect the budget, as well as unexpected increases in student population.
“We are looking at the needs of our students as they exist right now in anticipation for the next year,” said Rood.
The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is February 15 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester School Committee
By Jean Perry