The Astoria School Board first brought up a feasibility study on school-based health centers at its Sept. 19 meeting, after the Clatsop County Public Health Department had received a $60,000 grant in August from the Oregon Health Authority to conduct one. The issue is still up for debate and drawing crowds.

Two concerned citizens representing a larger group of people at the meeting in opposition to a health center presented to the board at its Tuesday meeting six broad issues with its operation.

“Without parents’ knowledge, you lose that element of family support,” said Charles Hamerle, who’s attended most meetings about the proposed center and opposes it. He was talking about the potential for loss of parent control over what medical services students get. Minors in Oregon can self-consent at age 15 for medical and dental services, 14 for mental health and chemical dependency and at any age for family planning and sexual and reproductive health.

Based on the principle that healthy children learn better, the health care center seeks to increase access to health care, decrease absenteeism, improve physical and mental health and be a connection to outside resources.

The clinic, located in a school building, would be equipped and staffed by primary care providers from Coast Family Medical Center, the medical sponsor, and Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare to offer affordable physical, mental and preventive health services. Most of Oregon’s school health centers have been based in high schools.

Hamerle presented issues with the accountability of a center to the district and citizens, insufficient quality standards for centers at state level, liability if a student is hurt at a center, staffing and funding and the center having an unfair advantage over other providers because of its school location and government-subsidized operation.

Board member Laurie Choate, also head of the nursing program at Clatsop Community College, engaged in a debate with Hamerle of the merits and issues of the centers, saying that all along the idea behind them has been to lower barriers to access for at-risk students, not to lessen parental control.

“We do have some responsibility to tell students services that are available to them,” said Choate, adding that in many cases, students can already seek services without their parents’ knowledge. “All of the services you have concerns about are already offered in the community.

“My kids could be taking antidepressants I don’t know about. I have no control over that whether we have a school-based health center or not.”

Hamerle responded that parents have the slightest control in that they need to approve their child leaving school early, which a health center would take away. Choate said if children don’t have access, they might not get treated.

“This is a business operating in our schools,” said Chris Bridgens, also in opposition to the center. “It’s a business that has a big impact on our kids.”

She echoed concerns about parental notification and the centers’ accountability to the public. Choate said clinics have accountability requirements through licensing requirements, and if the school board supports a center, it can form requirements for reporting.

There have also been concerns raised that the advisory committee researching the feasibility of the center is one-sided in favor of it.

“A broad representation to me means people with different views,” said Board Member Jeanette Sampson, adding that she wasn’t comfortable moving forward with the issue.

Board Member Martin Dursse said he was concerned that not a lot of parents have been heard from on the issue. There were three community meetings, said Fromwiller, but parents only showed up to the last one. During the last meeting, though, many people were cut short from speaking because of time constraints, and many have claimed the public meeting shut them out.

“I was a little concerned at the last community meeting that there wasn’t enough time for parents to share their beliefs,” said Superintendent Craig Hoppes, who recommended the health center be a discussion item in May.

A larger contingent of people sitting in multiple rows left the meeting after the health center issue.

The board discussed the health center and took Hoppes’ suggestion that the issue not be an action item May 6, as was previously proposed.

For more information on the centers, visit, the county’s or school district’s websites or Venus Fromwiller, the coordinator for the health center, at or 503-468-9419.

Jackson highlights student success

Lynn Jackson, principal of Astoria High School, said that in a society that has become increasingly critical of its youth, there are many doing some amazing things. Near the beginning of the meeting, he helped highlight several.

Rachel Speakman and Chantal Simmons are painting a large landscape mural on a stairwell wall at AHS depicting Saddle Mountain and surrounding hills, the Youngs Bay delta and horses. Speakman wants to make a living as an artist, and Simmons will study to become an architect.

Helen Tikkala and Randall Olson presented on volumes of revolution, a subject they’re learning in a dual high school- and college-credit calculus course with CCC instructor Rich Beverage. Tikkala will attend the University of Portland majoring in finance, and Olson wants to earn a master’s in aerospace and become an engineer.

Lauren Anderson, a student flutist who has been ranked fourth best in the state, played a section of her flute solo; she heads to the state competition in May. She plans to attend Pacific University, playing in the wind ensemble orchestra.

In other news:

• The school board voted to support the Strong Schools, Strong State campaign ( lobbying the Oregon Legislature for more educational funding.

• It held the second reading of the proposed Community-Funded Programs/Activites policy, would would create rules around requests to reinstate programs and activities reduced, suspended or discontinued by the district.

• Abby Johnson, an AHS student representative, reported that for the first time, the AHS choir program earned the top spot in the Cowapa League. The AHS prom, she said, recently found out it couldn’t use the Red Building, which is closing to public gatherings, and has since moved to the Paulson Pavilion in the Liberty Theater. It’s scheduled for May 4.

• Teacher appreciation week is May 6 through 10. Dursse read a proclamation, and all the board members thanked teachers for their service and will plan some sort of gift.