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Greenfield Public Schools

Greenfield schools to examine nurse policy

Recorder/Paul Franz
Four Corners School Nurse Pamela Owen checks the blood sugar level of first-grader Parker Beauregard, who has type I diabetes. He has to have his blood tested at least three times a day.

Recorder/Paul Franz Four Corners School Nurse Pamela Owen checks the blood sugar level of first-grader Parker Beauregard, who has type I diabetes. He has to have his blood tested at least three times a day.

GREENFIELD — For the second time in four months, the Greenfield School Committee has been asked to look into nurse staffing issues in the town’s schools.

Greenfield Education Association representatives told school board members at a Tuesday subcommittee meeting that they were concerned about staffing levels. Nurses have sometimes been asked to move from building to building, they said, and teachers aren’t sure when a nurse will be available in their school.

William Bazyk, the school department’s director of student services, said he has been scrambling to stabilize nursing staff because of five vacancies, from retirements or resignations, he has had to fill in 2013.

The seven-member nursing staff is set now, said Bazyk, with one full-time nurse in each building and a part-time one at the Academy of Early Learning preschool. He said that the only time nurses will shift among schools are on days like Tuesday, when four nurses were out and one substitute was unavailable.

The union’s other concerns centered around long wait times in the middle school nurse’s office, a lack of updated policies for what nurses should do in various medical scenarios and the department’s ability to complete required student screenings (vision, hearing, posture and body mass index).

School board members suggested bringing in more substitute nurses, which Bazyk said the department was open to doing but may be easier said than done.

There are about three nurses who currently substitute in the schools, said Bazyk. But there may be days or weeks that go by without a need for a substitute and the schools can’t afford to pay them as much as other health organizations ($18 an hour compared to about $25 to $35 an hour), he said.

As it is, he said, the schools and towns are lucky that five Greenfield residents stepped in this year to take the regular school nursing jobs — likely at lower wages than they were making previously. He said they’ve been cooperative and helpful as the school department gets back up to speed with its nursing requirements.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which governs school nursing, all students must receive physical examinations when they enter a school. After that, screening requirements vary depending on grade, but a student will typically need to see the nurse for at least one test every year.

There is no requirement that mandates departments to have a nurse in every building at all times, although Greenfield school officials say they always try to achieve this.

The state recommends staffing a part-time nurse for small schools with less than 250 students and a full-time nurse in any schools with a larger student body.

Superintendent Susan Hollins said that the department has also considered hiring a health aide who could move around and help nurses with record data entry.

Hollins suggested at an August meeting that the committee review its procedures for hiring nurses, including what certifications were necessary and how many to have in each building.

Mayor William Martin, the School Committee chairman, directed a subcommittee on health issues to look at the issue, but it has not yet done so.

The subcommittee that met on Tuesday deals with policy and human relations issues.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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