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County Budget Will Likely Include More School Nurses

JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
Charlotte Observer

Mecklenburg County Commissioners are scheduled to pass a new budget Tuesday. A group of parents has spent the past year pushing for one line in that budget to increase – funding for school nurses.

Hannah Saurer has severe food allergies and used to have seizures. She's six years old, and when she started kindergarten last year, her mom worried about who'd take care of her in an emergency.

"I just assumed that there was a nurse at the school every day," Teri Saurer said. "Once I looked into it further, I found out that the nurse was only there two and a half days."

That's per week, and that's pretty common in Mecklenburg County. More than half of CMS schools don't have a full-time nurse. If a student has a seizure on a day the nurse isn't there, it's up to a teacher or someone else on the staff to know what to do. 

Saurer said that's not fair to students or the staff.

"They shouldn't have the burden of dealing with children's medical conditions or accidents and injuries when they don't have the proper training and background for it," she said.

For the past year, Saurer and a group of other parents have been on a mission to get more nurses in CMS schools. Nurses here get most of their funding from the county, so Saurer and others have met with commissioners, spoken at meetings, and even held up signs in budget workshops.

It appears to have worked. Commissioners tentatively approved a budget last week that includes funding for 11 more school nurses and two more nurse supervisors. The plan is to hire them midway through the next school year and keep them for all of the following one. 

Saurer said that's a good place to start.

"We need a lot more nurses to make our children safe in school," she said. "But it's a great first step to getting commissioners and the public to realize the critical need for school nurses."

If the county does add 11 more school nurses, it'd still be about 60 well short of having one in every school.

Commissioners will meet Tuesday afternoon at 5:00 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center to finalize the budget.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misstated how many more nurses would be needed for every school to have a full-time one.