District examines school nursing budget

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - School nurse staffing issues made the list of concerns brought up at Wednesday night's Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education meeting.

Some board members worry about how changes in staffing could impact critical care for students.

Superintendent Mary Ronan says they are doing what they can to work with area health foundations, hospitals, and corporations to come up with creating funding and more cost effective ways to provide health services in the schools. In the past, the district has contributed roughly one million dollars to the 3.5 million dollar nurse program budget. The other portion of funding came from the city and program-generated revenue sources. Ronan presented four different models of more cost effective programing options to the board during Wednesday's meeting.

Bill Robb, a Registered Nurse who works in the school system is concerned about what cutbacks or staffing changes may mean for students. For the last 12 years Robb has been taking care of kids at Westwood Elementary.

"The benefit is we have a lot of continuity, we know the student body," Robb explained. "We're a great resource for getting a kid connected up with a clinic, getting them healthcare quickly."

Robb says he does everything from strep tests to diabetes management.

"We really want the children to be the best they can to learn," Robb said. "I think they need to be healthy to do that."

"We're really the first line of defense for youngsters who don't have health insurance," Superintendent Mary Ronan shared.

"Good health has a positive impact on student learning and achievement so we want to make sure our students come to school healthy and ready to learn," echoed board member Vanessa White.

With the City of Cincinnati pulling out of their annual 2 million dollars in school nurse program funding and the school district struggling with their own budget, Robb is worried about potential impacts on students.

"I'm very stressed," he admitted. "I worry about without nursing services who is going to care for that student, connect them up with additional services they may need?"

It is a concern that can be found  echoing in the halls of the Board of Education.

"I'm concerned about what do we do in the absence of nurses in buildings," White shared.

"Without a nurse in the building for a situation like asthma or a diabetic I think there could be some big problems with the vacancy," Robb said.

"We're trying to come up with creative ways to fund it but you don't want to be in that difficult position: teachers versus nurses," Ronan said.

From now until May Ronan will be crunching the numbers with the aid of input from the board as she prepares to make a final budget recommendation to the board of education.

A spokesperson for the city's health department says they are still not giving up on the possibility of city funding, hoping they can reach some agreement before the budget goes into effect. He also says they are looking at ways to maximize health care services that generate revenue.

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