JSD nurses plead for higher staffing levels in new budget

As the Juneau School District begins deliberations on its 2013-2014 budget, school nurses are calling for more help. Several of Juneau’s school nurses and supporters addressed the JSD board members during public comment period at the board meeting Tuesday night.

JSD Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich has already met with the administrative team that will help guide the creation of the fiscal year 2014 budget. A final version is expected to go before the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on March 5.

In the meantime, competition is high for available funds. It is expected that the 2014 budget will be as thin as — or thinner than — the current budget.

School nurses took a hit during tough negotiations that led to the current school budget. Although the school district was able to eliminate $1.2 million of over $6 million in cuts from the 2012 and 2013 budget, it was not able to reinstate two full-time nurse positions.

School nurse Maureen Hall said nurses were not given enough time to adapt to the cuts.

“What has played out this year is a result of that,” Hall said. “It has sent a system into chaos.”

Dzantik’i Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools share a nurse, as do Riverbend Elementary and Thunder Mountain High School.

“The school nursing situation has clearly become a nightmare in my mind,” Auke Bay Elementary school nurse LuAnn Powers said. “And I’m only responsible for one school. Without a nurse in every school the kids aren’t being served.”

Powers said she does not like being too far from her school. While staff is aware of emergency procedures, Powers has had to cancel personal and work trips because she was not able to get a substitute.

Powers said she feels the burden to do something to help due to her seniority as a JSD nurse. She said the school district is losing nurses due to the difficulties of the job.

“We’ve lost one of our more wonderful nurses,” Powers said, “Janell Meade.”

Juneau resident Lori Burgan said she supports Juneau’s school nurses.

By cutting nurses, Juneau is not taking care of its kids, Burgan said.

“We want them to be healthy and we want them to be safe and we have this odd system,” Burgan said.

JSD fifth-grade teacher Adam Berkey said he feels that the current school nurse situation could cause “huge regrets” going forward.

“I don’t know if this is a time to gamble,” Berkey said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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