Mann, Beye parents call for District 97 to hire more nurses

A group of about 30 parents at Horace Mann and William Beye elementary schools, led by Mann parent Keith Bullock, are asking Oak Park Elementary District 97 to assign full-time licensed nurses to their schools.

Bullock sent a letter to the D97 board and administration Monday, calling the lack of nurses “shameful considering our generous residential taxes and the recent passage of the District 97 referendum.”

The schools currently share a nurse, but when the nurse isn’t available, a health clerk trained in CPR and defibrillator use is on duty.

“I would consider that a priority,” Bullock told Oak Leaves on Tuesday. “In terms of managing risk, it seems it would be best to have a full-time nurse, regardless of size.”

D97 board President Robert Spatz sent Bullock a written response Tuesday, saying Mike Padavic, the district’s senior director of special services, would be willing to meet with parents from the two schools.

Though the state does not mandate either full-time or part-time nurses, D97 hires them to work with students with serious health conditions, including cancer, heart conditions and diabetes. School nurses also help with the administration of individual education plans for special needs students.

Bullock said he learned last fall that Mann did not have a full-time nurse and expressed his concerns at the school’s open house.

His concern was underscored in late May when the younger of his two daughters, a first-grader, injured her leg at recess while the school nurse was at Beye. He said Mann’s staff, which did not have medical training, believed her injury wasn’t serious and that she only needed rest. While seeking medical treatment, Bullock learned his daughter’s leg actually was broken in two places.

“Perhaps the nurse would have assessed the situation differently, perhaps not, but we will not know,” Bullock wrote in his letter.

Bullock said he’s spoken with many other parents, some with children who have chronic medical conditions.

“I know it’s not just my singular concern, ” he said. “Not to have a full-time nurse on staff, it’s really unsettling for them.”

Padavic said D97 has full-time nurses, who work 10 months out of the year, at eight of its 10 schools. The district assigns them to schools according to the number of students who have medical conditions that need to be managed and supervised during the school day.

Many districts, Padavic said, employ nurses to supervise several buildings.

“Now the standards say we need to move away from that practice,” he said. “I have to say D97 has been really progressive in staffing their buildings with a professionally licensed staff nurse.”

Padavic said finding enough qualified school nurses, a specialty within the area of nursing, also has been challenging for the district, which currently has two vacancies. He said because the area is surrounded by four major hospitals, many nurses pursue higher-paying jobs there rather than with D97, where school nurse salaries range between $55,000 and $65,000.

However, Padavic said, D97 does require limited training, such as CPR, for all first responders, including principals and office staff.

“We’re not going to diagnose medically. We’re going to err on the side of caution here and call 911,” he said.

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