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Board approves four new nurse positions

The effort made by several parents to get more nurses in Knox County Elementary Schools was successful, though Laurie Sluder said the four additional nurses approved in the 2007-08 school budget are not enough.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but not nearly as many as we needed. Frankly I don’t think it’s as many as they should’ve given us,” Sluder said. “The American Nurses Association recommends one nurse per 750 students, and we would need about 22 more nurses to get us up to that ratio.”

She added, “I appreciate that at least they did the four, because we didn’t really think we were going to get any.”

Thomas Deakins, sixth district representative on Knox County’s Board of Education, confirmed, “One R-N and three L-P-N positions were funded within our budget.”

As far as where the nurses will be placed, Deakins said, “That is still to be determined. I think that’s up to our health coordinator to make those decisions. I think we’ll look at it and place those nurses where it will benefit the kids the most.”

Sluder and several other parents met with Karen Carson, fifth-district Knox County School Board representative, and Mike Hammond, County Commissioner for the fifth-district, before the budget was approved to discuss the issue.

“Karen [Carson] basically repeated that a lot of the problem is at the state level,” she said. “Evidently the state funds 75 percent of the nurse’s salary. They only give the schools right now enough to fund one nurse per 3,000 students. Knox County is actually supplementing that. We have one nurse to about every 1,800 students. So there’s a little bit of extra funds there coming from the county already.”

During the meeting, Carson “gave ideas on how we can get things changed. She gave us some good ideas like organizing and talking to some other organizations that deal with other health issues like asthma,” Sluder said.

Sluder and other parents will continue working to increase the number of nurses in Knox County elementary schools.

“Since [the meeting with Carson and Hammond] I have talked to [State Sen.] Tim Burchett [R-7th District], and he is going to look into it. We are going to try to find out who the American Nurses Association representative is in Nashville,” she added. “We are going to see what we can do.”

Deakins said, “I would support the addition of more nurses in schools, but I want to make sure we have a process in place, know that we have the funding to do it and be able to address it in the right way. It’s like anything, if we’re going to add this and get the best benefit for our students and our taxpayers, let’s make sure we have a process in place to roll it out.”

He credits the parents for the approval of the four nurses.

“I think it was an awareness by a lot of the people in the community who spoke out and asked for more nurses. I think it was a good community effort that did that. We had several parents come before the board and speak,” he added. “This has been a process that’s been ongoing, but I definitely think the community helped drive this. A lot of the board members agreed, too, that we needed that.”


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