DENVER — Inside Morgridge Academy in Denver, it is business as usual for students who are working on expanded drawings in Ms. Chelsea's fine arts class.
“Now we have to erase the grid lines to make the character,” said 6th grader Nehemiah Scott. “I’m drawing Vin Diesel.”
But what goes in inside these classrooms of 6th grade students is actually more important for their well-being than anyone can imagine.
“If you walked into our school on a regular school day, you would see nothing different,” said Morgridge Academy principal Jennifer McCullough.
And there’s much more to this school than meets the eye.
“Morgridge Academy is a K-8 school here on the campus of National Jewish Health in Denver,” McCullough said. “We’re a school for kids with chronic illnesses, so we serve everything from severe asthma, allergies and eczema. Basically – anything that needs treatment during the school day.”
Morgridge is giving parents like Nehemiah’s mom, La’Rece Rice, peace of mind.
“He was first diagnosed with asthma when he was six months old,” Rice said of 12-year-old Nehemiah. “He stopped breathing in his sleep. And then he was in and out of the hospital. I couldn’t work because I had to be with him.”
Life was tough. Nehemiah was missing a lot of school. La’Rece couldn’t work. Then, they found Morgridge.
“Since he’s been here – he hasn’t been hospitalized,” Rice said. “He’s been on stable medications; he has his appointments routinely. He just seems more active, happy and healthier."
“I have an A, I’m pretty sure two B’s,” Nehemiah said of his grades. “I should be getting an A in health.”
For Chelsea Parker - Ms. Chelsea, as she's known among the students - it's the availability of having nurses that makes it all possible.
“We have kids who miss a lot less school because we’ve got a full staff of nurses,” Parker said. "Three-full time nurses," McCullough added.
And as she explains, if the kids need further medical care – the hospital is right next door.
“We can just pop them over to the doctors if we need to,” McCullough said. “I think the biggest thing is – a lot of kids have regular appointments that pull them out of school. And it’s nice that we can just pop them over and pop right back and not miss so much school.”
What’s more is there’s more to this school.
“Two days a week they actually swim in our swimming pool,” McCullough said. “We have a swimming pool here. When you’re learning to swim, you learn that rhythmic breathing and that can slow down an asthma attack.”
“I love it here,” Nehemiah said. “I didn’t know how to swim at first, but now I do.”
You still see some masks at Morgridge.
“COVID is still kind of happening here just because our kids are so fragile,” McCullough said.
But learning is in-person and students are listening, learning and laughing.
“They’re here, they’re learning, they’re making friends,” Parker said. “They’re making connections.”
“It’s the best respiratory hospital, arguably on the face of this Earth,” McCullough said. “And our kids get that care.”
“Take the leap of faith that I did,” Rice said.
Morgridge Academy is enrolling for the rest of this semester and next fall.