The Natrona County School District will have six more nurses this year after the board of trustees agreed Monday night to spend more than $500,000 of its priority money to boost the district’s pandemic response.
The board first broached the idea of bringing on more nurses earlier this month as it discussed its plan to reopen schools. Roughly a third of its schools don’t have a full-time nurse in their building. This plan wouldn’t fully remedy that situation, but it would provide significantly move coverage.
It’s unclear if the nurses will continue within the district after this school year. The piggy bank that the board is cracking open is one-time money. The status of the apparently temporary workers may be dictated by the presence of the virus in 12 months’ time, but a compounding factor is the state’s miserable financial outlook, which is set to hit school funding hard.
In any case, the new nurses will be able to better screen and handle any positive cases that emerge within the schools. Officials said Monday that the district will maintain a webpage that will track and publish positive cases, what school they were identified within, and whether the patient is a student or staff member. That information will be less concrete when it comes to the rural schools, which typically have one or two staff members and far fewer students.
While the board has disagreed among itself on how to best handle the virus, the support for hiring the nurses was uniform, both during discussions previously and during a unanimous vote Monday night. Though trustee Dave Applegate had previously asked for more study on the issue, the school year is about to start, and there are no more school board meetings scheduled until after students return to their classrooms.
There was some potential that the district could use federal funds to pay for the nurses. Whether that’s explored in the future is unclear, but for now, the board is tapping its own reserves to fund the positions.
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