WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — School nurses will be furloughed as a result of last week's decision to begin the year with virtual learning, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County announced Monday.
Robin Kish, the director of community engagement for the health care district, said the decision impacts about 140 full-time registered nurses and health technicians in the school health program.
School nurses were notified of the decision on Friday and the furloughs will begin on Aug. 3.
The furloughed nurses will have the ability to collect accrued sick time and vacation time, as well as contribute toward maintaining their health benefits until they are called upon to return to work.
Kish said 60 nurses with the highest number of years of service were given the option of voluntarily leaving thier positions and can receive a separation package.
The health care district said once schools open again, they plan to staff the same number of public schools, nearly 170, with a full-time registered nurse.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County released this statement to WPTV:
"Due to the decision by The School District of Palm Beach County to start the 2021 school year with remote learning, combined with the uncertainty of when schools will reopen, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County has made the difficult decision to temporarily furlough school nurses whose work has been disrupted, resulting in zero or reduced productivity. This impacts approximately 140 full-time registered nurses and health technicians in the School Health program who are not assigned to roles supporting other areas of the organization.
During a conference call Friday, July 17th, the Health Care District’s school nurses and health technicians were advised that as of August 3rd, they are being placed on temporary leaves of absence with the ability to collect their accrued sick time and vacation time, as well as contribute toward maintaining their health benefits, until they are called upon to return to work, such as for emergency duties, or when public school students return to the classroom. In addition, 60 nurses with the highest number of years of service were advised they may choose to voluntarily leave the organization as of the end of the day today and receive a separation package that reflects their tenure. It is inevitable that the role of the school nurse will be expanding to include duties related to COVID-19, such as testing, and possible exposure to COVID-positive students or staff on a daily basis. The Health Care District offered this benefit to allow those school nurses who have provided many dedicated years of service the option to separate and explore other work opportunities in the event the changes to the role combined with the uncertain date of return was not their preference. The furloughs are effective Monday, August 3rd, the date the school nurses were scheduled to return to work. The Health Care District remains committed to the School Health program and once the School District releases its plan to return to school, the Health Care District will respond accordingly, including plans to staff the same number of public schools, nearly 170, with a full-time registered nurse."