BENNINGTON >> Select Board member Jim Carroll appeared before the Bennington School Board on Monday to talk about ways to improve participation in the schools' dental program.
Carroll, who is also a member of the community oral health committee, said that after the fluoridation ballot measure was defeated last year, the committee has been focusing on other ways to improve oral health in the community, especially among children.
"Dr. (Dick) Dundas, and quite a few other people, attempted to get children's teeth examined in North Bennington. It was roughly a couple hundred kids, and it was this long paper trail that really led to dismal and abysmal results. It was single digits, the number of children that got examined. We as a board have come up with a great number of ideas that are all well and good, but as Dr. Dundas' effort demonstrated, it took a lot of effort for very little results."
"So, we thought, among ourselves we thought of an idea that we would bring before the board and you could give us an answer or look into it," said Carroll, "We have dental chairs, as I understand it, in most of the grade schools and middle school, but we don't have kids in the chairs because of paper chasing among parents, to sign a form to give consent to get kids in the chair." Carroll suggested reaching out to parents via email, rather than relying on children to bring home forms that often get lost before making it back to school.
BSD board member and member of the community oral health committee Jackie Kelly said that they had also talked about sending the consent form home with the students' registration packets. However, those packets are only sent to children entering the school, so it would take several years to get all students covered. She said another option was an opt-out form, rather than a consent form, so that they would need to specifically choose to exclude their children from participating.
"The specific population we're trying to reach are those kids who are in poverty," said Carroll, "Those kids and their parents are the ones who don't respond. It's been demonstrated, historically."
"You just answered your own question," said board member Marie DeCoff, "If they are in poverty, what makes you think those parents have emails?"
"Everybody has email," responded Carroll.
DeCoff was skeptical. "I find there are a lot that don't," she said. She suggested that at Molly Stark, which has a dental chair and has the highest number of students that walk to school with their parents, forms could be handed out directly to parents.
Board member George Sleeman expressed support for Carroll's suggestion. "I think it's worth a try," he said, "If the superintendent can figure out with the principals a way of doing that, I think that I'd support it, and I'd be surprised if the board wouldn't also. I think you're right, Jim, it's really needed, and it's serious."
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union superintendent Jim Culkeen said he would look into the legalities involved, and determine what the school's options are.
The Bennington School Board meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the either music room at Bennington Elementary, the auditorium at Monument Elementary, or the library of the Molly Stark School, depending on the month. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.
Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.