TAMPA, Fla. — In the middle of a pandemic and a nationwide nursing shortage, the Hillsborough County School District is looking to hire more than 30 school nurses.
If they can find them, the additional positions would cost about $900,000 a year.
Every two years, the school district works with the Florida Department of Health to come up with a health services plan, which is required under state law.
As part of the plan this time around, the district wants to fill 32 open school nurse positions and hire a pediatrician. It will need the Florida Department of health to cover the $908,574 cost.
That’s because districts generally spend money in their budgets on traditional education-based expenses. Nursing is not always a priority under that budget.
“Seventy-seven percent of school nurse funding is from education dollars, and so, their mandate is education. Not necessarily healthcare,” said National Association of School Nurses President Laurie Combe.
Hiring that many school nurses might be easier said than done.
There’s an overall nursing shortage, as COVID-19 has forced districts around the nation to do the same.
The National Association of School Nurses says 25 percent of U.S. schools have no nurse at all, and 35 percent have one working only part-time.
That’s put a lot of the burden on teachers.
“Of course, they will do everything in their power, but they are not medical professionals,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
The Hillsborough School District is not using COVID-19 to justify its request. Instead, they say it’s about keeping kids on a path to graduation since 84,800 of Hillsborough students - about 40 percent - have acute and chronic medical conditions.
Without school nurses, they say, more kids go home sick, don’t return to class and are ultimately more likely to drop out.
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