5280 AIR Society Benefits the Chronically Ill Children of Morgridge Academy
Morgridge Academy is a free school for chronically ill children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The school, operated by National Jewish Health, serves children living in Metro Denver who have been diagnosed with a range of severe, chronic health conditions. With a dedicated team of teachers, nurses, a child advocate, and a school counselor, the students receive a quality education while learning to manage their illnesses.
The goals of Morgridge Academy are to help chronically ill children to achieve academic and physical excellence and to prepare them to become independent and self-reliant. The coordinated care is designed to give students the knowledge and confidence to manage both their education and their illnesses, ultimately enabling them to return to a traditional public school setting.
In a way, Morgridge Academy is more than just a “school”: it embodies an educational philosophy that enables students to grow, develop, and learn at their maximum ability in a warm, friendly, and caring environment. Each child’s physical health is a top priority, but we also focus on their social growth as well as academic excellence.
The Denver area is home to many students who struggle in ordinary schools due to chronic medical conditions. Among the population served at Morgridge Academy, these illnesses include, but are not limited to, severe asthma and allergies, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS, atopic dermatitis, cystic fibrosis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial lung disease, and muscular disorders.
Morgridge Academy is the only school of its kind on a medical campus, not only in the Denver Metro Area, but in the entire country. It is the only place where these chronically ill children can receive the intensive in-school medical services they need in order to succeed. The children who attend benefit from a low student-to-nurse ratio, a clinic equipped with medical supplies and experienced nurses, the seamless integration of medical and educational services, and the ready availability of expert physicians at National Jewish Health. As a result, Morgridge Academy is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of chronically ill children in Metro Denver.
Students enrolled in Morgridge Academy follow a rigorous academic program augmented by arts and athletic offerings. The curriculum is designed to provide a broad-based education. State standards are emphasized while encouraging advanced work for students in areas of special interest and competence. Small classes of 12-15 students encourage both group and individual learning experiences.
For many of the chronically ill children at Morgridge Academy, poverty and instability at home exacerbate an already challenging medical situation. Eighty-four percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, as determined by federal poverty guidelines. Unfortunately, the frequently observed relationship between low socioeconomic status and health problems holds true for these children. Low-income children have higher rates of mortality (even with the same condition), higher rates of disability, and a higher risk of multiple conditions than their economically advantaged peers.
For many of these students and their families, the struggle to manage a chronic illness dominates daily life. Before they find us, all too often these children miss school due to illness, sit on the sidelines during physical education, and make frantic visits to the emergency room. As a result, many are below grade level when they arrive at our school. Once Morgridge Academy helps them to get their illnesses under control, they can focus for the first time on learning.