Special meeting to focus on Burbank school nurse staffing

The staffing of nurses in Burbank Unified is expected to be discussed during a special school board meeting on Friday and the district’s head nurse plans to tell board members that additional nursing staff is needed.

There are currently six certificated nurses who divide their time among the district’s nearly 20 campuses and 15,200 students.

That equates to one nurse for about 2,500 students, more than three times the ratio recommended by the National Assn. of School Nurses, which suggests one school nurse for every 750 students.

Lenora Aguilera, Burbank Unified’s head nurse, said the demand for additional certificated nurses comes at a time when more Burbank students have chronic health conditions and the number of students that nurses serve every day keeps climbing.

The number of local students seeking assistance from a school nurse ranges from 40 to more than 100 daily, Aguilera said.

The six school nurses often refer students to outside health-service providers and consult with teachers, parents and counselors to assess if a student’s health problem is tied to poor attendance or if the student is encountering problems at school or at home.

On a recent day, Aguilera said she was helping a student as eight to 10 more waited in line to see her. When her phone began ringing and a fellow school employee knocked on the door, the student asked Aguilera, “‘Is this how this is every day?’”

“Everybody’s trying the best they can with what they have,” Aguilera said. “The time has come where they need to do something... At the end of the day, we go home bearing the weight of everything we see that day and realizing all the needs.”

She said she is glad the discussion was put on this week’s agenda.

“I’m hoping that this is a reflection on this administration seeing there is a need,” she said.

Over the past several years, the school district has weathered $100 million in budget cuts, mostly in response to state-level education reductions. As the district eyes additional funding over the next few years, it is poised to only see its revenue restored to the level it received in 2007-08.

That year, there was at least one more certificated nurse working in the district, school board member Larry Applebaum recalled.

He supports adding an additional nurse and acknowledged they are “stretched very thin,” he said.

School nurses must be registered nurses, have a bachelor’s degree and a credential in school nursing.

They also work with other health providers in the district who can provide students with CPR and first-aid.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that certificated school nurses are the only health employees in the district who can administer shots.

“Everybody has an important job to do,” Aguilera said of the district’s health employees. “We just happen to need additional school nurses based on the numbers and needs of the students.”

But beyond the one nurse Applebaum said he would support hiring, he said the school board has additional tough decisions to make about the district’s overall priorities, other than nurses.

A committee of 60 educators, parents and community members are currently assessing the district’s priorities as part of the Local Control and Accountability Plan committee — a state-mandated, locally-formed group that will help create a road map of district priorities.

Their three-year proposed plan will go before the school board later this spring.

“For the board, it’s going to be very tough,” Applebaum said. “We’re going to have 60 items that are priorities and we’re going to be able to fund 10. There’s going to be the perception of winners and losers, but that’s not the case at all. It’s priorities.”

School board member Roberta Reynolds said the board’s discussion on nursing staff is a follow-up to previous conversations where Aguilera has advocated for more support.

“We all know that Lenora has expressed her feelings that there is an urgency… [It’s] a matter of taking what all of those needs really are and putting together a plan,” she said.

The special school board meeting will be held at 2 p.m. at the district’s headquarters, 1900 W. Olive Ave.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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