The DeKalb County School System now has a full time nurse at each school.
The Board of Education, on Thursday November 20 voted to add a full time school nurse at DCHS to meet the nursing needs of a student who enrolled earlier this semester. Funds for this position will come from the Special Education General Purpose budget. While the nurse, Wade Ferrell will be serving this particular student, he will also be available to attend to other DCHS students with medical issues. Should this student move away, transfer out of the school system, or no longer need this nursing care on the advice of a physician, the school system would no longer be able to fund this nurse from Special Education. School Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III said if this were to occur the board at that time would revisit the issue of keeping a school nurse at the high school. "We need to make a stipulation (in the board minutes) that if those (nursing) services stop (for this student) then we re-evaluate the nursing position," said Evins.
The budget request for the new full time nurse position was made in writing by Gina Arnold, Supervisor of Special Education. Director Willoughby read Arnold's letter to the school board. "On November 19, 2014 we had an Individualized Education Plan developed on a student who enrolled at DeKalb County High School earlier this semester. This student is in need of nursing services for the entire school day. Due to the seriousness of this student's health condition, the provision of a full time school nurse would be warranted and could be paid for from Special Education General Purpose funds. I am not at liberty to discuss details in a public manner due to HIPPA and FERPA regulations. I have worked jointly with the nursing department and with Dee Anna Reynolds from Coordinated School Health to verify the student's needs in regards to our state laws and TCA regulations and guidance. I've also consulted other school systems for their advice on how they regulate such nursing care. I would like to request my general purpose special education budget to be amended to include one FTE school nurse funded under 141-71200-189 which is the direct services funding code for special education. Should this student move away, transfer out of our school system, or no longer need this nursing care at advice of the physician, I would no longer be able to fund this nurse. However, at the present time my budget will accommodate and can justify this provision. I respectfully ask that this position be added to my budget in the general purpose special education services and that you allow us to pursue employment for this position immediately in order to meet this need," wrote Arnold.
In addition to Ferrell, the school system employs four other school nurses, Chandra Adcock, Kim Turner, Christie Driver, and Joanie Williams. All are registered nurses. Prior to adding a full time school nurse at DCHS, each school had its own nurse except for DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb County High School which had to share a nurse. Director Willoughby said the state provides funding for one school nurse per three thousand students. Any other nurses must be funded locally.
Because of the growing student population and children with chronic conditions including diabetes, Dee Anna Reynolds, Coordinated School Health Coordinator said during the September school board meeting that another nurse is needed. Three parents, Darlene Evans, Ashley Bryant, and Glenda Davis, who all have children with diabetes also addressed the board that month asking the board to find the funds to hire another school nurse to help meet the medical needs of their children and others in the school system.
Since this year's general purpose school budget does not provide funding for a new school nurse position, Director Willoughby said he would assign a substitute nurse at the high school to meet the needs until the board could reach a resolution on how to fund a full time position. The substitute nurse, Ferrell, has been working there since.