The Lancaster County School Board voted unanimously On Oct. 9 to expedite a request from the board of supervisors to return funds to the school budget for the purpose of hiring a school nurse.
The vote took place during a special session on Oct. 2 called by School Board Members Bob Smart and Patrick McCranie.
At issue was the lack of a nursing position at Lancaster High School starting this year with registered nurses at the primary and middle schools having to serve students at LHS in addition to their regular duties.
Smart said he did not believe the “jerry-rigged method of shuffling people around from school to school” was working.
“Some of these children have special medical needs: asthmatic, diabetic…and sickness and accidents often happen,” said Smart. “You reduce our liability and improve the safety for the children that we have care of if we have this fulltime nursing care.”
“I’m not concerned with where the $50,000 or $60,000 [for the position] comes from,” Smart added. “I just want it to happen.”
McCranie said a nurse was “of the utmost importance” for ensuring the safety of Lancaster County’s school children.
“From someone who went into anaphylactic shock last year, it’s a good thing that I live so close to the hospital. I didn’t know what I was suffering from,” said McCranie, adding had he not gotten to the hospital in time, he “would have died.”
“If we have a child who goes into anaphylactic shock and they’re 6-8 years old, they don’t know what they’re suffering from,” said McCranie. “ My gosh, you want a nurse on the premises to administer an EpiPen or whatever [is needed].”
While McCranie and Smart requested the meeting which 15 people attended in addition to school officials, Chairman Alex Fleet opened discussion on the matter.
He drew attention to roughly $235,000 in funds not spent by Lancaster schools in fiscal year (FY) 2013 that is now in the county reserves.
Fleet recommended the board request part of the unspent funds from the county to fill the nursing position.
County Administrator Frank Pleva, while noting on Sept. 26 that supervisors could consider turning back part of the funds to the school board, said in an Oct. 7 interview that the school board’s other option would be to stay within their current budget for the time being “since we’re only three months into the fiscal year.”
Pleva added that the school board could identify areas in the budget from which they could transfer money to the administration and health category for the nurse.
“Later in the year, depending on how things look, then they could approach the board of supervisors and make that additional appropriation because of funding that position,” said Pleva.
But Fleet said the funds could not be transferred from other categories in the school budget, appropriated on a semiannual basis, to health and administration.
Fleet based his conclusion on his experience.
“I’ve been in education a long time. I have put together 18 school budgets,” said Fleet. “I’m the only member of this board or the board of supervisors who has put together a school budget.”
While Smart ultimately agreed with the school board’s decision to request a part of the unspent FY 2013 funds, citing his desire for a third fulltime nurse, he said the school board would be certifying they did not have money in any category of the budget for the position.
“Bob, as I said, I really think I know budgets, and there isn’t money there,” said Fleet. “This budget’s tight.”
In referencing the unspent funds, School Board Member Donald McCann said they were “physical dollars to be had” and that the school board’s request for part of the funds “certainly is not going to impact the county budget to any degree at all.”
“We are spending way too much time with budget and very little time with the issue at hand that everybody should be concerned with, and that is how we can assist the administration with regard to the education of the children of the community,” said McCann.
Pleva said the request, if approved, would increase the school board budget while detracting from the reserves money that the county could use for cash flow and other purposes.
School Board Member Ella Davis asked the school board if they would have to wait another month to request the money from the county at the board of supervisors meeting, to which Fleet replied that they should expedite the request.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 15, Pleva said the county received a request in an emailed letter from Salg and Superintendent Daniel Lukich on Oct. 10 for a $50,000 increase to health and administration.