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BOE to vote Tuesday on unique nurse plan

POSTED: June 1, 2014 12:00 p.m.

The Barrow County School District could soon have a clinical worker in nearly every school at all times, using a formula not seen in other area schools, according to Matt Thompson, the system's director of student services.

The board of education put on the consent agenda at Tuesday's meeting an amendment to the previously-approved tentative budget that includes three new clinical workers.

"I couldn't find other programs in the area that had done this," Thompson said, "there may be, but it’s a novel idea."

"We’re blazing a new trail," added new superintendent Chris McMichael.

The amendment will be voted on at Tuesday's board meeting, and the FY15 general fund budget as a whole – along with the budget for all other funds – will be voted on at the June 24 work session and called board meeting.

The budget has to be approved by June 30 by state law.

The proposal for the three clinical workers would lower the anticipated end-of-year fund balance for the next fiscal year to 7,785,000. It's an $81,000 impact, a little more than the initial proposal – which called for one new school nurse – and which sparked the process.

The discussion began at the April 22 work session, when an additional school nurse was one of a number of additions recommended to the board to be added to the budget.

But board members, led by Connie Wehunt, expressed a desire to add more than just a 12th nurse and instead get closer to having a medical professional manning each clinic at all times.

Currently there are 11 school nurses, one for each elementary school and three to rotate between middle schools and two traditional high schools. Snodon and the Alternative School can have a nurse avaialable as needed.

Former superintendent Wanda Creel said at the time that the staff would look into possible solutions that would add more than just one more full time nurse, including using Certified Medical Assistants or even firefighter EMTs on a part time basis in order to save money while adding more.

Currently all school nurses are either Licensed Practitioner Nurses or Registered Nurses.

The plan that Thompson brought back to the board does not include a 12th registered nurse, but instead three medical workers, likely Certified Medical Assistants or even EMT’s, who would work full time and rotate with the three nurses assigned at the high schools and middle schools so that all of the middle schools and two traditional high schools would have a medical professional at all times in order to give needed shots or prescription medication and more.

"Somebody with medical background manning all clinics at all times," Thompson said.

It’s a big step in the right direction because, while Thompson said front office staffs have been able to manage while dispensing medications and helping patients with severe allergies, diabetes and the like, it takes away from their assigned duties.

"We think (this plan) will serve the needs of a whole lot of students," he said.

It’s still just a plan at this point, however. Even if it passes the board vote Tuesday, the district will then have to determine if they can find CMAs or EMTs willing to work the new positions.

A second step, if the idea of adding three clinical workers is accepted by the board, would be to also put together a nurse substitute system so that, even when one of the regulars is out, the clinic can still be properly manned.

The plan also doesn’t fix everything. Along with a system to have nurse substitutes, the new plan leaves Snodon Preparatory School – which would have had a nurse based there under the original plan brought forth – without a solution.

Thompson said it’s a concern, but that at its current small enrollment the staff has been able to get by.

"As they continue to grow, eventually have to have a full time nurse," he said, "but for now they can get by."

There would also still be the question of the Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology, but because students will only be attending the academy in two hour blocks while still spending much of the day at their own school, Thompson said it’ll still need to be determined as to what the school might need in the future.

For now though, if the plan passes and the district can find professionals that want to serve the new roles, Thompson said the new plan is certainly better than the current situation.

"This will solve one problem nicely, but still others to assist," he said. "But it’s a large increase over where we were.

"It’d be a lot better situation for Barrow students then previously."



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