Although parents continued to voice their concerns on Monday night, the Board of Education indicated that it will likely cut the number of school nurses in the district next year.
Angelo Rubbo, assistant superintendant for business services, outlined the next draft of the $63.4 million school budget and its proposed cuts. If passed, the district will see a number of significant reductions, due to a loss of nearly $1 million in state aid. Some of the cuts include losing five-and-a-half staff members, spending $130,000 less on Board of Cooperative Educational Services and slashing $10,000 on bussing. But, parents were most vocal about the prospect of reducing the number of nurses in the district.
“I understand that there’s no fat on this budget,” remarked Alicia Darmona. “What I fear is that we’re going to look back at this moment…and realize we put our children’s welfare at stake.”
In an effort to save about $140,000, the Board of Education proposed keeping full time nurses at the high school, middle school and . The three other elementary schools and will each have a part-time nurse on hand from 10:25 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and access to Colonial’s full-time nurse. This schedule assures that nurses are available for at least two key periods—dispensing medication at lunch and monitoring recess.
To better understand what the job of a school nurse entails, Board of Education Vice President, Dr. Martha Arden spent a morning with the nurse at . While Arden acknowledged the important role nurses play, she suggested that cutting the number of nurses could be a feasible plan.
“Is having a nurse truly a lifesaver or a convenience?” Arden asked. “It will be an inconvenience for whoever has to pick up those jobs. I think it will be an inconvenience for working parents.”
To try to dissuade the board from reducing the district’s nurses, parents drew up a petition and got 236 signatures within three days.
Louise Kelly, a parent of three Colonial students, presented the petition to the board and emphasized the fact that the money saved, could pale in comparison to the potential consequences.
“It’s one-tenth of 1 percent of the budget,” Kelly noted of the approximate $140,000 that would be spared. “Teachers who aren’t trained will be placed at the front lines.”
While Kelly recognized that many of the cuts fall into this range, she also mentioned that people weren’t objecting to those line items.
Arden noted that while it’s not ideal to rely on teachers to perform a nurse’s duties, she also said that “most of the things that [nurses] do are not very complex and don’t require a nursing degree.”
Parents impressed the urgency of their individual situations by sharing the varying illnesses and allergies their kids deal with on a daily basis. The board assured that any child with a chronic illness will be mandated to attend Colonial, where they’ll have access to a full-time nurse.
“I got a diabetic, peanut allergy and asthmatic. I got it all,” said Dr. Mike Prisco of his three children who currently attend . “How many people will be going to Colonial?”
Carolyn Laskaj, whose daughter is allergic to peanuts, mustard and also has asthma, echoed Prisco’s statement.
“Colonial is going to be bombarded and may as well be the only elementary school in town,” Laskaj said.
Arden said that the main issue, in her opinion, is how the schools will approach emergency situations, but she wasn’t able to get a sense of how many such situations typically arise.
“You do have those emergencies. Whether we’re willing to have a nurse that’s less than a mile away, that’s willing to drive over, is something we need to consider,” Arden said. “I think we should be able to manage, with careful training.”