To better meet students’ health care needs, Park County School District No. 1 Trustees voted unanimously last week to hire a third nurse in a part-time position.
By comparison, Cody has four nurses for its approximately 2,100 students.
“With almost 1,800 students in Park 1, our daily nursing duties, responsibilities and visits have become increasingly worrisome,” wrote Ginger Sleep, special services director, in a letter to Superintendent Kevin Mitchell.
The Powell district has 12 students who are diabetic, 129 who need inhalers, 23 who have EpiPens, three with significant metabolic disorders and one who requires daily tube feeding.
“And flu/cold season hasn’t totally hit us yet,” Sleep wrote.
From Aug. 22 to Oct. 10, the district’s two school nurses had 1,549 student visits to their offices, according to Sleep.
Each year, the level of demand varies as students’ health conditions change and new kids move in, Sleep said during the Jan. 14 school board meeting. The goal is to ensure students receive the care they need so they can stay in school, she said.
“Some students need special care with medications, especially over the lunch hour,” Sleep said.
Frequent traveling between the schools occupies nurses’ time, she noted. A part-time nurse who will work four hours per school day is a good start, Sleep said.
“We would love to have another full-time nurse, but we realize there are budget constraints,” Sleep said. “We thought the option of a part-time nurse, especially over that lunch hour, will help meet the needs of our students a little better.”
Adding a nurse in the middle of the school year isn’t included in the current budget. A full-time school nurse would cost roughly $40,000 more than a part-time position. That’s because a full-time salary also would include benefits.
The district’s nursing needs will be a part of upcoming budget discussions for the next fiscal year, Mitchell said.
He said the district will see how the rest of the year goes with the addition of a part-time nurse.
“We’re going to continue this conversation throughout the remainder of the school year and see how the additional help works out. There’s still the potential that we might need more help,” Mitchell said. “It’s driven by the needs of our students.”
Sleep suggested splitting nursing duties by building assignment based on current student needs. One nurse will oversee Southside Elementary School and Powell High School; another nurse will be responsible for Westside Elementary School, Clark Elementary School and the Shoshone Learning Center; and a third nurse will be assigned to Powell Middle School and Parkside Elementary.
The part-time nursing position will be advertised through Jan. 31. Mitchell said he hopes a new nurse will begin by mid- to late February.