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East High Students Get Something Else to Make Them Smile

Patti Singer

East High School. File photo

East High School’s partnership with the University of Rochester is expected to pay another dividend for students and residents of the neighborhood – enhanced dental care.

East is expected to open a dental clinic by late October that will be staffed by faculty and residents from UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health. The Rochester City School District received a Community Schools Grant from the state to cover the approximately $333,000 cost, and additional support is coming from the university.

The clinic might have happened without the UR being the Education Partnership Organization for East. Lorna Washington, assistant superintendent of strategic planning for East High EPO, said the arrangement certainly helped.

“It doesn’t hurt us that we are in partnership … in order to make that connection,” she said.

Comprehensive dental care was identified in a needs assessment. Eastman Dental Center, part of the oral health institute, already provides the SmileMobile for cleanings and other routine care. The clinic will be for more intensive services, Washington said.

The clinic has been in the planning stages for about two years, she said.

A similar dental clinic has been housed since 2002 at Enrico Fermi School 17 on Orchard Street. Last year, that clinic served 238 students over 650 visits and 3,262 community members over 11,350 visits, according to Eastman Institute for Oral Health.

East’s partnership with UR has led to several initiatives to improve the education and well-being of students at East. Since the involvement of UR, the graduation rate has gone from 32.5 percent for the class of June 2016 to a projected 65 percent for the class of June 2019.

Dental care alone won’t increase that rate, but it’s part of a holistic approach to students’ academic, physical and mental health.

“If you’re having dental pain or issues with your teeth, that could impact your ability to come to school, to participate in class, your self-confidence, your social and emotional well-being, Washington said.

Initially, the clinic will be available only to students. Because it will be open during the school day, officials will have to work out logistics to make the clinic accessible to residents. Opening the service to the neighborhood goes with the community school model, where the mission is to increase engagement outside the school walls and therefore improving student performance, supporting families and making the community healthier.