WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County requested registered nurses in all their schools last school year. It didn't happen.
"We had schools that went without an RN," Superintendent Michael Burke said.
The school district contracts with the Palm Beach County Health Care District. Wednesday night, there were two main concerns aired during contract negotiations.
The first is inequity.
"I'm clear about the shortage of healthcare professionals, like at every level. I'm clear about that. I'm not willing to walk into a situation where we are creating, knowingly creating, adding to inequities," Board member Dr. Debra Robinson said.
Robinson said it's unclear which schools will get an RN or a certified nurse assistant. She said it potentially creates gaps in coverage for students who are diabetic.
"If you have a school that has no diabetic students at the start of the year, and they have a CNA and then a student is diagnosed as insulin-dependent, that to me means if there's another school that's less critical you take their RN and place them at that school," she said.
The second concern is about diminished care for students who don't have health insurance.
"Growing up, I was on Florida Kidcare. When I didn't fit the age requirement to fit Florida Kidcare, I didn't have health insurance. That's the truth for a lot of kids in my district," Board member Alexandria Ayala said.
Ayala said a visit to a registered nurse may be the only healthcare screening a student may get all year. She said a CNA is not enough.
"They do care. That's not diagnostic or it's not medical in nature. They can assist while a patient is in a certain state," she said.
In the end, even amid all the concerns, the board voted and approved the new contract with Robinson voting against it.
Why vote with all those unanswered questions? The district felt under pressure to get something done with the new school year looming on August 10. The new contract begins on August 1st.