Adolescent health clinic postponed: GPPSS loses grant from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Photo credit: Katie Madigan

Following the four-hour emergency school board meeting, held on Jan. 19 at Brownell Middle School, questions arose surrounding the future of the adolescent health clinic at Grosse Pointe North High School. At the meeting, it was determined that the construction of the adolescent clinic would halt until alternative funding is found. This contrasts with the previous decision to use the Sinking Fund, which provides the finances for improvements such as safety, technology, repairs, and construction in GPPSS buildings, as the primary funding source for the clinic. Therefore, the postponement entails that GPPSS will lose the grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to open a clinic in the district. 

Due to the grant loss and the uncertainty of the clinic’s future, members of the Grosse Pointe community have become disheartened by the decision to postpone the clinic, including North principal Kate Murray. Murray believes that not only will this decision not meet the needs of students in the community, but it will also hinder access to healthcare for students in future generations.

“I will always continue to advocate, and research and marshal resources in different ways to take care of our North students,” Murray said. “That is why we advocated so fiercely for this clinic, [that] is because we understand and see and experience our students’ needs every day.”

Community members on both sides have voiced their opinions on the board’s decision, with most inquiring about alternative funds, according to school board President Ahmed Ismail. Though the majority decision was based on fiscal responsibility, Ismail voiced that the board has already begun researching alternate solutions. 

“As far as the community reaching out, we’ve had feelings expressed both ways. I’d say probably a little more on finding another way to do the clinic rather than the way it was proposed, but we had opinions both ways and we are doing research now on different options,” Ismail said. “As soon as we have some answers and some viable alternatives we will certainly share those with the public.”

Although Ismail is searching for alternatives, GPPSS parent Clint Derringer believes that voting to postpone the clinic as a whole, whether there is an alternative or not, implies that the needs of students are not being met.

“I wanted to state clearly and publicly that failing to prioritize the needs of our students sends a terrible message to our community at large,” Derringer said.  “It also sends a signal that the Board of Education will not always support teachers, counselors, and administrators when they work hard to find these opportunities.” 

It is a difficult thing. [The clinic] was an emotional project, and we have more coming up like that. I just hope that after we get done we can move forward and say ‘let’s do the best we can for the kids in the system.’

— Ahmed Ismail

Similarly, senior Vanessa Ciaramitaro agrees that the health clinic would have had prosperous effects on the community.  Although Ciamitaro acknowledges the polarizing nature of the clinic and the negative responses sprung forth from its funding of it, she notes that the positive impact of the clinic would offset the concerns.  

“I believe the clinic would have been a very helpful resource for the entire Grosse Pointe community,” Ciaramitaro said. “Students and parents would benefit from having free and readily available quality care. The clinic had strong potential to assist all families in the community, especially those who may not have access to these resources.”

Moving forward, Ismail hopes to keep the community informed and involved in all projects building healthy discussions between members on future issues to support students. 

“I hope [the board] can find common ground. We are not going to agree on everything and what everyone has to realize is that once we vote on something we need to move on,” Ismail said. “It is a  difficult thing. [The clinic] was an emotional project, and we have more coming up like that. I just hope that after we get done we can move forward and say ‘let’s do the best we can for the kids in the system.”  

Despite the unclear future of the clinic, Murray still hopes to remain educated on healthcare resources for students in the district. Through her continued involvement in researching, visiting, and planning for the clinic, Murray believes that it is important to advocate for future healthcare resources in Grosse Pointe schools.  

“I will have faith that there will be other opportunities or grants [so] that we can again, advocate and support our students here,” Murray said. “For example, we have a wonderful relationship with the church across the street, which has also been instrumental in supporting student needs and looks forward to partnering with us in our search for what else we could do to support our Norsemen.”