As the Natrona County School District is preparing to reopen, its leaders are considering setting aside half a million dollars to hire several more nurses.
The district already has a staff of nurses, though roughly a third of its schools don’t have a full-time provider in the building. Under a proposal discussed Wednesday, the board would tap one of its own piggy banks to pay for six new nurses, who would be used to better screen and handle potential coronavirus cases in the district’s schools.
Though the board has disagreed — with each other and with public health officials — on how to respond to the pandemic, there was unanimous support for bringing in more nurses. If there was any point of disagreement, it centered around timing; school begins in a few weeks, but the proposal was the first the board had heard about beefing up health care workers.
Board member Dave Applegate asked for more study of the issue, particularly on funding it. That was another question: how to pay for the nurses, who would likely be kept on for just one year.
While the district has received millions in federal stimulus money to offset costs associated with the pandemic, much of that money has already been allocated for various expenses, like technology and distance education materials. Superintendent Michael Jennings said the board could dip into its priority funds — one-time money set aside for use by the board — to pay for the teachers.
Even if the board did that, its priority fund would be flush with several million dollars, alongside its other reserve account, which is also well-stocked. Still, so much federal stimulus money is floating around — with more potentially on the horizon — that some on the board pushed for a harder look at dipping into that pool instead.