Nurse, Jane Jeffries (right) checks up on third grade student David Seizer, 8, at Will Rodgers Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SMMUSD HDQTRS — Nearly half of the nurses that received layoff notices from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will get to keep their jobs under a new proposal put forward by the superintendent, but critics say the plan ignores recommendations made by a committee which held cuts to zero for the coming school year.

Of the 5.6 full-time equivalent positions that the Board of Education approved for cuts in February, only 2.6 notices were sent out by May 15, the deadline for final layoffs.

“The status at the moment is that they’re going to rescind three final notices and send out two that are precautionary,” said Santa Monica High School nurse Nora McElvain. “They realized they can’t just decimate the program.”

Superintendent Tim Cuneo’s proposal for the 2011-12 school year keeps on seven full-time nurse positions and brings on eight-and-a-half health clerk positions to provide support to the nurses.

Health clerks can perform basic duties like maintain files and help with nurse-supervised tasks like dealing with lice outbreaks or giving approved medicines to students.

The plan would cost $1,154,875 for the first school year, and would equal what the district is touting as a 62 percent increase in the number of people attending to student needs.

Malibu High and Samohi would each get a full-time nurse, while Olympic High School and Child Development Services would share one.

Each pathway, or set of connected elementary and middle schools that feed into a specific high school, would get one nurse shared between the schools, as well as health clerks for extra support.

The division is based on the number of students at each high school, and held within each pathway.

The plan doesn’t reflect any of three options developed by an ad hoc committee convened in February to examine how the district could better provide health care to students in the district.

That committee consists of health care professionals including the CEO of the Cedars Sinai Health System, various school administrators and city officials. They met five times and developed three options, one of which they turned in to the board.

Committee members voted to present a plan to the superintendent that also proposed reducing the number of nurses, but only by 1.6 full-time positions by the 2013-14 school year, not 4.6 as the superintendent has suggested.

For the 2011-12 year, the committee’s plan preserves all 9.6 nursing positions and would be supplemented with both licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs, and health clerks, while sticking within the $1,155,355 budget given to them by administrators.

LVNs have less training than a licensed school nurse. Nurses in SMMUSD tend to have not only an undergraduate degree, but also a master’s degree and several years of experience as a nurse in another school district.

According to a presentation given by Susan Chaides of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, who participated in the committee, an LVN can only do limited assessments of student health, maintain health records and assist school nurses in some activities.

They’re better qualified than health clerks, but have only 12 to 14 months of training.

Under the committee’s proposal, the number of LVNs and part-time health clerks would climb each year, and approximately one nursing position would be cut.

By 2013-14, the district would employ eight nurses and supplement with three full-time LVNs, four part-time LVNs and four part-time health clerks. The funding for these positions would not change.

SMMUSD Nurse Coordinator Lora Morn, who participated in the committee, said the group did a fabulous job in putting together its proposal.

The superintendent’s staffing represents too much of a jolt to the system at exactly the wrong time, Morn said.

Cuneo could not be reached for comment.

“It will be difficult to hire, train and support eight-and-a-half new health clerks by next school year, especially with the Tdap [vaccine] requirement,” Morn said.

New school vaccination requirements dictate that approximately 5,000 students will need to show proof that they’ve gotten their Tdap booster, a vaccine that covers tuberculosis, diphtheria and pertussis, before they show up for school next year.

Nurses will be working overtime to go through thousands of medical records to ensure that students either have the vaccine or the appropriate waiver, but it will take a lot of time and manpower.

If the student doesn’t have the required paperwork, they will not get their school schedule, which puts a lot of pressure on the nurses that keep their jobs, whether or not they have a host of new employees to train.

The superintendent’s proposal doesn’t stop there, however.

The plan proposes phasing in extra cuts to nurses and replacing them with even more LVNs.

Under the “possible phase-in-goal,” there would be only six full-time nurses in the 2012-13 school year, supplemented by three LVNs and seven health clerks.

By 2013-14, that balance would be reduced to five nurses, four LVNs and the seven health clerks. That level of staffing would cost the district $1,139,250, or $16,105 less than the committee’s recommended plan.

The item is on the Board of Education’s agenda as a discussion item. No action will be taken Thursday.


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