The Austin ISD is seeking a new partner to run its school nurse program after a rocky school year and a more than two decades long relationship with the Seton Healthcare Family. The hospital entity currently staffs nurses and school health assistants on 130 AISD campuses.
The district posted a request for proposals on its website last week, which says its student health services budget for the 2018-2019 school year is $7.1 million.
“We’ve encouraged the superintendent and the board to issue the RFP,” said Greg Hartman, Chief of External and Academic Affairs for the Seton Healthcare Family. “This comes down to a budget question — how [does AISD] afford to do this and how much in subsidies do you have to provide in order to meet the needs of what folks are asking for?”
One year ago, KXAN reported that Seton wanted to charge the district more for school nurses, and the program was going to cost AISD $2 million more than budgeted.
On the first day of school this year, some parents were caught off guard when they learned their child’s campus was not staffed with a full-time registered nurse.
One father, Ted Hennessy, posted up in the library at his daughter’s school during the day to make sure she was receiving the care she needed for her type 1 diabetes.
A few days later, Seton and AISD told KXAN the district was going to start utilizing a combination of virtual care, registered nurses and school health assistants.
Following more parent pushback, Seton announced they were going to add more registered nurses on campuses. It took several months for the health care provider to hire additional staffing.
“I would like to see a full-time medical professional at every campus,” said Jessica Mraz.
She’s one of many parents who have reached out to KXAN and shown up to school board meetings to voice their concerns to trustees.
Her son, who has complex medical needs, is a second grader at Hill Elementary School. Mraz says the campus only had a school health assistant on the first day of school, but has since gotten a full-time nurse.
According to the district, schools with more than 750 students have one full-time nurse. Campuses with 350-750 students have a nurse for half the school day, and a school health assistant for the other half. Campuses with fewer than 350 students have a full-time student health assistant and a nurse who oversees the health care on that campus.
Mraz is hopeful AISD can land on a solution.
“The superintendent at one point said everything we do is for the kids, and so this is for the kids — this is to keep them in class, to keep them healthy,” said Mraz.
Seton says they also plan on submitting a proposal, and could continue their longstanding relationship with the district. But Hartman says there’s no way $7.1 million will cover a full-time nurse on every campus.
“There is no easy answer for this,” said Hartman.” And so we’ve got to partner together whether it’s us and AISD or AISD and somebody else we’ve got to figure a way to meet the needs of what parents are expecting.”
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