As part of their growing responsibilities, principals are always concerned about making sure their students are healthy. Now, perhaps as a result of a celebrity’s generosity, they may need to be concerned about what health care they’re providing for their students—and at what cost.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are big believers in delivering quality education and top-notch health care services as a way of providing opportunities to underserved children. Now, they’re doing a lot more than talking about it.
Funded by the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Donor-Advised Fund, they’re creating “The Primary School,” which will offer health care services to all students from birth to graduation—or perhaps from the womb to graduation. In some cases, the school may accept students before they’re born and offer prenatal support for their families. The private nonprofit education facility will be free and will target low-income students. The school is scheduled to open in East Palo Alto, CA, in August 2016.
Announcing the plan—in a Facebook post, of course—Zuckerberg said, “It’s a new kind of school that brings education and health care together.” He adds, “When children aren’t healthy, they can’t learn as easily. Many kids and teachers across the country deal with the consequences of poor health in classrooms every day.”
Many schools are now placing increasing emphasis on keeping students healthy—like implementing innovative fitness and nutritional programs. Educational observers, including secondary school principals, will be closely monitoring The Primary School to see the lengths to which Zuckerberg and Chan take their passion for combining health and education.
While many of the details need to be worked out, the school will have an on-site clinic—primarily for students—and will participate in a partnership with the Ravenswood Family Health Center. Located near the school, Ravenswood will provide comprehensive health and dental care to children from the school and their families.
Zuckerberg said Chan, a pediatrician who has taught elementary school science, has been working on the school initiative for more than a year. In her own Facebook post, Chan said her personal experiences pushed her to “find a better way of caring for and educating our children.”
Chan previously ran an after-school program in a housing project and worked as a pediatrician in a hospital for low-income and uninsured patients.Initially, The Primary School will offer full-time classes for 4-year-olds and support programs for parents of infants and 2-year-olds. The school will add a grade each year.
This is not the Zuckerbergs’ first venture into innovative models. The couple previously invested in AltSchool—a private school that features mixed-age classes-founded in San Francisco in 2013. Zuckerberg also was involved in an educational project in Newark, NJ, several years ago in cooperation with local government and business officials.
Michael Levin-Epstein is the senior editor of Principal Leadership.