With the state’s sales tax-free holiday for back-to-school looming next week, parents of elementary students in the Gulf public schools should be aware of one significant factor.

Their lists are very small, tiny.

Gulf District Schools will receive a grant from the Save the Children Fund, commonly known as Save the Children, which will provide elementary students in Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka with just about all the school supplies they will need; notebooks, backpacks, paper, pencils, scissors, backpacks and on and on.

The main exception, for the youngest of the district’s students, is mats; the grant will not cover mats.

While the donation comes from Save the Children, the Fund is based in London and carries a global reach, the supplies will be specifically tailored to Gulf County students.

“The grant application was a joint effort between supportive parents and district staff on behalf of students and schools,” said Lori Price Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

“The application was based on supply lists provided by the principals.”

Price added that the Save the Children grant combined with the “generosity of a number of other agencies and individuals … should alleviate the expense of school supplies for parents.”

With school three weeks away, the district’s hope is that having been approved for the grant, a quick delivery of the supplies will follow.

“When the supplies are received, district staff will spearhead distribution directly to the teachers to ensure all elementary school students benefit,” Price said.

Additionally, School Board member Cindy Belin began last week to spearhead a fund-raising drive to put together the roughly $3,000 needed to supply mats for elementary school students.

Price noted that during a typical school year, each child will wear out one or two mats.


PanCare MOU

Last week, the Gulf County School Board approved a memorandum of understanding with PanCare to provide to a pilot project to expand “telehealth” programs at both elementary schools.

In the program, PanCare, which operates clinics at former health department sites in the county, would provide medical and behavioral health consulting services.

PanCare would also schedule virtual appointments for students with medical professionals with clinic “kiosks” at both elementary schools and the district offices.

In effect, said a PanCare representative, the pilot program will bring an “urgent care facility to your campus.”

The program is entirely grant funded and would be rolled out to the high schools if proven successful.

PanCare has established a similar program in some Bay County schools.

However, Gulf officials have been cautious about the program and upsetting the apple cart they believe they have in the school nursing program provided by the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County.

“We have a great relationship with the health department and we have no intention of abandoning that,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “This is to supplement our services.”

Each year, nurses working in each school see thousands of children each year with a variety of minor and complex maladies.

“We don’t want to do anything to mess up what we have with the health department,” said board member Ruby Knox.

Norton, though, noted that the state is pushing districts and schools to expand health services, particularly mental health and the district is likely to soon have a kiosk at each school for mental health services.

The PanCare MOU was another extension.

“We will implement it and see how it goes,” said board chair Brooke Wooten. “I have questions.”