Nearly 8 million students, in every state and at every grade level, missed three or more weeks of school in 2015-2016, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education. 

That statistic alone is telling. 

Consider this: Poor attendance influences whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade or be held back, data suggests. Absences during the first month of school is often a predictor of poor attendance throughout the school year. 

Illness is often a contributing factor that leads to school absenteeism. 

That’s why the opening of the new Bee Well clinic is so valuable. 

The Baldwin County School District celebrated this week the “soft” opening of its new, school-based clinic, which hopefully will eventually provide care five days a week to staff, students and their siblings and parents. 

We may still be a ways away from the clinic being fully up and running, but the potential is so great. 

Children can’t learn if they aren’t present and they can’t be present if they are dealing with illness — whether chronic or minor. Sometimes a run of the mill health issue prevents children from being able to come to school, particularly if their parents don’t have the resources or aren’t able to get them the information and care they need to get better. 

Said Dr. Noris Price and this week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new clinic: “Something as simple as pinkeye, which means you get some eyedrops, could end up keeping a child out for several days. That student then misses out on learning and lessons that cannot be made up. We want to remove that barrier.”

Those who visit the new Bee Well clinic and have insurance will have that accessed for payment, while those who do not will be charged on a sliding fee scale.

Children can’t learn if they can’t attend school. 

Kudos to Communities in Schools of Milledgeville-Baldwin County, Georgia College and the Baldwin County School District for their roles in creating the Bee Well clinic. This new clinic allows yet another barrier — health — to be removed for our students and helps ensure that they are healthy, present and prepared to learn. 

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