FLEMINGTON, NJ – Nurses affiliated with Hunterdon Medical Center have stepped in to help temporarily resolve the school nurse shortage here.
School nurse staffing problems in the Flemington-Raritan School District have been among several issues raised by parents and school staff at recent school board meetings.
Copper Hills school nurse Melanie Rosengarten warned of the shortage last week. Desmares school nurse Kathleen Barbee told the school board that, “When there is not a nurse in the building, bad things can happen.”
School nurses are specially certified, but “the regular process for becoming a school nurse is being waived for these few days,” according to a memo sent to HMC nurses seeking their help.
HMC nurses will be paid $150 per day. That is “lower than your customary salary,” the memo states, but the nurses will get credit from HMC for “community volunteerism.”
HMC is granting the credit because, “This is definitely meeting a community need,” the memo states. And while it calls the need for nurses “desperate,” school district Superintendent Dr. Maryrose Caulfield -- who resigned last week -- recently wrote in an email to a parent that, “in fact nowhere in school law do we have to have one nurse in a building.”
Nurses in public schools “do not act as medical personnel,” Caulfield wrote, “and by law and by policy and regulations they should not be.”
The role of a school nurse is limited, Caulfield’s email explained.
“A nurse is in a school to deliver medications in place of the parent,” Caulfield wrote. “We have covered in this manner for many many years in the district and no harm has come to any child. We follow the law.”
Wednesday at Desmares Elementary School was to be the first day that a district school was expected to be without a school nurse on duty.
The school board has scheduled a special meeting to be held at J. P. Case Middle School Room D111 at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. The agenda has not yet been posted to the school’s website, but a notice sent to parents last week said the closed-door session will be for the purpose of discussing “personnel.” So it’s possible that the nurses offering their services to the district will be approved by the school board before an actual vacancy occurs.
It isn’t clear if the school board will also be discussing hiring an interim school superintendent to succeed Caulfield. School officials haven’t responded to a TAPinto request for more detail about Tuesday’s agenda.
A special parent meeting, that was to be hosted by the school board Wednesday in the Reading-Fleming Intermediate School, has been cancelled.