SMMUSD HDQTRS — All 10 nurses currently working in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will keep their jobs for the 2011-12 school year, although the details of what kind of support staff they will have haven’t been worked out.

The decision, approved by a 6-0 vote by the Board of Education on Thursday, created a synthesis between a concept put forward by Superintendent Tim Cuneo to retain fewer nurses and hire more full-time support staff and that of an ad hoc committee which wanted all the nurses retained with some part-time support staff.

Cuneo recommended that for the first year, the district retain nine full-time nursing positions and hire one full-time licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and three full-time health clerks to assist with clerical work and other duties.

The ad hoc committee, on the other hand, presented its recommendation in May to retain all 9.6 full-time nursing positions, which totals out to 10 employees, and hire only one full-time LVN, two part-time LVNs and two part-time health clerks.

In reality, even the 9.6 figure represents a reduction of two nurses who were kept on with one-time funds from the previous school year.

Members of the ad hoc committee defended the retention of all nurses considering the challenges in the coming year of preparing schools for new vaccination requirements.

Nurses will be working non-stop to ensure that all 5,000 students entering high school in the fall have their tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine, or they will not be given their schedules to start classes. Students can present a waiver signed by their parents.

Both staffing plans would cost the district exactly $1,155,355.

The plans differed primarily because of cost of the various kinds of employees. A nurse costs the district approximately $110,000, while a full-time LVN costs only $55,000.

Even less expensive are part-time workers. A part-time health clerks cost just over $13,000, while a part-time LVN costs approximately $17,000.

Cuneo’s objection to the ad hoc plan was its reliance on these cheaper, part-time employees in favor of keeping all nurses on board.

“It will be hard to attract part-time instructional aids, or health clerks or LVNs,” Cuneo said Monday. “It’s one reason I recommended full-time.”

Another is the amount of stress it could put on nurses to train and manage various part-time employees in a transition period already complicated by the Tdap requirement.

Some board of education members seemed hesitant to rock the boat too much.

“I appreciate the superintendent’s proposal, but I think it’s better to keep whole now and phase in and test other options,” said board member Oscar de la Torre.

A compromise solution was to retain the 9.6 nurses, and leave it up to staff to figure out how to best spend the remaining $128,155 of the budget on either health clerks or LVNs.

“We need to do some additional planning,” Cuneo said Monday.

Members of the ad hoc committee also requested the ability to continue their work with a long-term task force to look at the future of health care provision in the district.

People felt that it would allow the school district to plan for the future and make the potential transition away from registered nurses in the district smoother.

“When resources are scarce, the community should work together so that costs are minimized and benefits are maximized,” said committee member Leslie Butchko. “That’s why we recommend a long-term task force.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

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