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Palm Coast Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 3 years ago

Free dental sealant program protects the teeth of Bunnell Elementary students

Also: Proposed partnership with Bethune-Cookman University would open summer program to local students; School District considers emergency loan program for employees.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

A dental sealant program offered for the first time this year at Bunnell Elementary has already sealed the teeth of 120 children since September.

"If we can get sealant on those molars, then it means those teeth are probably going to be there for a lifetime," certified dental hygienist Jenny Brady said in a video produced by the school district about the program.

The program, a partnership between the Flagler County School District and the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County, provides the service to children free of charge.

"This has just been wonderful collaboration between the Health Department and the school district," Flagler County Health Department Administrator Bob Snyder said at a Jan. 17 School Board meeting. "Dental sealant is probably one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent tooth decay."

The program has a permanent clinic space at Bunnell Elementary, with Brady providing the service. It is open once a week and preparing to go bi-weekly, and is looking to expand by adding a permanent space at Rymfire Elementary.

"The model of full-service community schools — this is it," School Board member Colleen Conklin said.

Proposed partnership with Bethune-Cookman University would open summer program to local students

Up to 50 Flagler County students may have the chance to attend a new summer program this year though a proposed partnership between Flagler Schools and Bethune-Cookman University.

The partnership would bring the Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program — which provides summer reading enrichment to students — to Flagler Schools, with Bethune-Cookman's education students interning as teachers. 

The six-week summer program would be open to rising 5th- to 9th-graders and would be run in partnership with community organizations such as the Inspire Our Youth program.

"The Freedom Schools are all over the nation, and in almost every instance, they see reading ability jump," Bethune-Cookman School of Education Dean Willis Walter told the Flagler County School Board at a Jan. 17 workshop. "The Freedom School has its own curriculum in which they share materials and things that the students can do over the summer to ensure that they do not backslide over the summer in reading and math."

Flagler County is one of two areas Daytona Beach-based Bethune-Cookman University hopes to open a summer Freedom Schools program staffed by its education students. Walter had hoped that Buddy Taylor Middle School could be the site of the Flagler program. The other location, which would also offer the Freedom Schools program to 50 students, may be in a low-income area of Volusia County, Walter said.

The consensus of the School Board was to move forward with the proposed partnership with Bethune-Cookman University. The district could put about $25,000 toward funding the program, School District superintendent Jacob Oliva said at the workshop.  

School District considers emergency loan program for employees

Payday lenders charge extreme interest rates — one company, Amscot Cash Advance, lists APRs ranging from 265.93% to 312.86% — but they're often the only option for people who have an emergency and don't have the credit score to get a less costly conventional loan. 

The company BMG Money fills that gap by offering its LoansAtWork emergency loan program to people with low credit, who repay through automatic payroll deductions. At a Jan. 17 School Board workshop, a BMG Money representative made a case for bringing the LoansAtWork program to the Flagler County School District. 

"In Florida there are more payday loan stores than McDonalds or Starbucks: They’re everywhere," said BMG Money Chief Growth Officer Tom McCormick. Payday lender find customers, he said, because so many people find themselves unable to get credit after an emergency destroys their credit score. "Nowadays, if you’re not in the club you’re out of the club, and that’s why folks pay $265% interest," he said. 

The LoansAtWork program offers financial literacy training to everyone seeking a loan through the program, and advises them to first try to secure a loan through a bank or credit union, he said. If they're not able to get a loan through those more affordable options, they can get a 23.99% APR LoansAtWork loan of up to $5,000, depending on their income and the length of the loan. 

LoansAtWork is paid through payroll deduction and reports those payments to credit bureaus every month, which helps its clients build credit, McCormick said. They can only take out one loan at a time, and only one loan per household.

School District Superintendent Jacob Oliva said at the workshop that emergencies like Hurricane Matthew — which forced many locals to pay money to stay in a hotel or to replace everything that was in their fridge after they lost power for days — are the kinds of circumstances that can cause people to need emergency loans. 

The proposed Loans At Work program would not cost the district any money, McCormick said, and LoansAtWork already has 42 public sector clients in Florida, including five school districts.  


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