SANBORN – Registered nurses rather than licensed practical nurses are now required in all Niagara Wheatfield Central School District schools.
The School Board voted Wednesday to make it district policy that each building has an RN to handle emergencies and other medical situations and provide care to students. LPNs generally have to work under the direction of an RN or a physician.
The new policy covers all current and future hirings.
Board member Christopher Peters, who brought up the issue, said the concern is a legal one.
"We should be operating according to the [state education] law," he said. "We're talking about potential lawsuits." Education law requires RNs in every school, it was noted.
District officials indicated that Niagara Wheatfield has been in compliance except at the high school and middle school, where there is an RN and an LPN. The RN is shared by both schools, which are connected by a walkway.
The new policy will result in the LPN being laid off and an RN, who was furloughed, being called back.
Member Richard Sirianni said he questioned the move because he was "uncomfortable cutting a 15-year employee" in favor of one with four years of service. He also said that in the future, the move would cost the district about $5,000 to $10,000 more for the RN.
Sirianni's position is apparently supported by the district's lawyers, who said the high school-middle school complex can be considered one building and would need only one RN.
Peters said he was not entirely in agreement with the legal opinion.
He said he feared that in the case of emergencies in both schools, the district would be liable and open to a lawsuit. Interim School Superintendent James Knowles said he felt the district would be better off having an RN stationed in each school.
Peters also said the recent round of layoffs in the new budget may have had an impact on the situation.
"We were overstaffed, so we got away with it," he noted. "Now with all the cuts, we may have trouble."
The policy was adopted by a 5-2 vote. Sirianni and Richard Halleen dissented.
In another matter, the board gave private sports booster groups until Aug. 10 to come up with the money to fund non-league games, which were cut from the budget for the coming school year.
If the groups want non-league games back on the schedule, they will have to fund expenses such as bus transportation for away games and pay for officials at home games, the board decided. The only cost mentioned was $350 for a bus, depending on the distance to the away game.
According to board President Steve Sabo, the groups would give the money to the district, which would pay the expenses. If the groups paid the costs directly, the events would not be covered by the district insurance policy, he said.
Supporters of girls' basketball and soccer told the board that funding should be no problem thanks to fundraising by those supporters. The Niagara Wheatfield Sports Alliance group also could cover the costs until the parents could raise the money, it was noted.