At the Northshore School Board meeting April 22, the board decided to cut at least two essential services to students despite a standing-room-only crowd protesting the cuts. The standing-room crowd was not allowed to voice their concerns as the board also decided to limit the speakers to a total of 10 before making its decisions.
The two cuts that concern me the most are the cuts to the nursing staff and the cuts to the library staff. At a time when life-threatening food allergies are on the increase, life-threatening asthma is at an all-time high, pediatric diabetes is on the rise and special-needs kids are present in larger numbers, the board has decided to remove the full-time school nurse. No satisfactory plan has been revealed that will fill the nurses’ shoes. The most common thought is that office staff and teachers will just have to be trained to be able to handle emergencies. This plan is short-sighted in my opinion because it is going to cost money to provide even a basic level of first aid to all the staff. And, in many cases, providing first aid is not listed in the job descriptions posted on the Web. And, because of past budget cuts, teachers and support staff already have full plates.
These cuts are likely to have a far-reaching impact because teachers and office staff are not trained as nurses. They do not have the ability to intervene in an emergency, nor do they know what to do to prevent an injury from becoming an emergency. Parents will want them to err on the side of caution so you can bet that there will be an increase in the number of 911 calls from schools affected by these changes.
In the nursing literature, there is research that demonstrates that graduation rates go up and truancy rates go down when there is a full-time nurse in the school. Despite this evidence, the decision was made to eliminate full-time nurses in some schools from the budget with a plan to eliminate more in the future.
The cuts to library staff make me really upset. The librarians impact every kid in the school. Mr. Hehn, the librarian at Lockwood, where my kids attend, knows what my kids like to read and makes great suggestions. I love the fact that after Mr. Hehn makes a recommendation to my son about a book he might like, I have to take the book away from him because he stays up reading in his room. The librarians will no longer have the time to recommend books to kids or teach them how to do a search on a computer because they are going to have to do all the tasks associated with running the library without the assistance of library techs. We live in the age of technology, but our kids have to be taught how to manage the technology before it is of any use to them.
Many parents present Tuesday night expressed the sentiment that the board should eliminate the “fluff” before eliminating essential services like safety and library support. Why couldn’t Camp Casey be dropped? Sure, it’s a great experience camping with all the fifth-graders in Northshore, but if I have to choose between a camping trip and someone who knows when to give my asthmatic his inhaler and when to call 911, I would choose the latter. I don’t think I am alone in my preference.
Running Start is a fabulous program that allows kids to graduate from high school with an associate degree from community college. What a wonderful program! But, parents who were praising the program said the program had saved them at least $15,000. Wouldn’t they be willing to pay at least a part of that? Wouldn’t it be more fair to ALL children to have access to a librarian and a nurse than to provide this special program to a small group?
Tuesday night was a big disappointment for me and for other parents who really hoped the board would take a more critical look at cutting the fat from the budget and leave essential services for all children intact.