Wanted: Medical Aid Schools, Parents Push for Full-Time Nurses

Article excerpt

Parents in Duval and St. Johns counties, along with school

officials, continue to fight for full-time nurses in schools.

Fortunately, there's a healthy outlook.

Both counties want more full-time nurses in schools. And Clay

County would like to return the money they spend on nurses to

classrooms.

Members of the Duval County Council of PTAs pushed for more

school health funding during a Feb. 9 meeting with U.S. Rep.

Tillie Fowler, R-Florida.

St. Johns County parents and school officials made their pitch

before the St. Johns County Legislative Delegation on Jan. 27.

Lobbying hasn't been as prevalent in Clay County, where each

school already has a full-time trained health-care worker on

staff.

Clay spends about $200,000 a year on a contract with the Clay

County Health Department dating back to the 1970s, said Joyce

Alford, Clay's director of student services.

"We'd like to return that money to the classroom," Alford said.

"We're comfortable. But we'd like to see additional funding for

school health. For some kids its the only health care they get,"

said Nick Chapman, Clay County health department administrator.

Increased funding for health looks promising, said Les Beitsch,

director of family health services for the Florida Department of

Health.

Several bills supporting increased funding for school health

workers will be considered at the next legislative session in

March.

One bill would provide a nurse in every Florida elementary

school -- 1,517 nurses at a cost of $77 million a year.

In many Florida schools, including those in Duval and St.

Johns, a nurse is on duty about three hours a week. Many schools

have none.

Teachers and staff are forced to care for sick kids on top of

other duties.

Most Duval school clinics are staffed by volunteers, who may or

may not have any medical background.

Nurses visit periodically, maybe once a week, said Chris

Buckley, school education chairwoman for the Duval County

Council of PTAs.

She said there's a groundswell of support for more health

workers in schools.

"Kids can't do their best academically if they have health

needs that are unaddressed," Buckley said.

Nease High School parent volunteer Terry Bleak told legislators

at the Jan. …