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District looks to expand health services with additional nurse positions

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By Kacie Goode

Nelson County Schools is looking to expand access to health services by hiring four additional school nurses to help serve its more than 4,600-student enrollment. Currently, the district employs five school nurses, whose duties are split among several schools. Officials are looking to add four more positions to create a total of nine nurses for the district’s 11 school facilities.

Bloomfield Elementary and Bloomfield Middle School would share a school nurse, and Old Kentucky Home Middle and Horizons would also share a nurse. Foster Heights Elementary, Cox’s Creek Elementary, Boston School, New Haven School, Thomas Nelson High and Nelson County High, and the Nelson County Early Learning Center would each have its own.

Director of Pupil Personnel Robbie Leathers, along with Director of Federal and State Programs Cheryl Pile, proposed the expansion to the Board of Education at its Sept. 7 work session. Leathers said nurses would be hired by priority, with New Haven School being at the top of that list.

“This will be very positive for New Haven,” said board member David Norman, who had emphasized the importance of the nurses when the topic came up during tax discussion.

Nelson County High would be next, followed by Foster Heights and Old Kentucky Home Middle School and Horizons, though Leathers would hope to be able to see all four positions filled around the same time.

Leathers said the cost for the additional nurses would be about $190,000. The district would also partner with a company to bill Medicaid and take part in training for Medicaid billing for those who qualified. The reimbursement from Medicaid could potentially offset the cost of adding the new nurses, he told the Board. The nurses will be employed by the Nelson County Schools system.

“We have medically fragile children in almost every building we have. Multiple children in most buildings,” said Liz Mattingly, who is the district’s head nurse. “It’s very important; it’s vital that we put a full-time registered nurse in every building we can.”

Mattingly currently serves OKH, Horizons and Nelson County High School, but once an additional nurse is brought in to cover the high school, she will have more time to oversee the additional nurses hired. Changes to the district health services coordinator job description for Mattingly reflect those additional responsibilities.

Board member Damon Jackey was hopeful the improved access to school nurses would promote attendance by helping prevent health issues to start with, as well as address needs for students with existing health conditions.

Horizons changes underway

Director of Secondary Schools Kim Brown gave an update on the changes taking place at the district’s alternative school, which has now been separated into The Academy at Horizons — for students needing credit recovery or other academic assistance — and Horizons, an in-school suspension program.

Among some of the highlights for the update, Brown said 53 students are currently enrolled in The Academy, courses are offered in different formats, counseling services are available, students are involved in project groups, science technology engineering and math (STEM) activities are being planned, as are art and music activities, and students will be permitted to participate in clubs with Nelson County High and the Area Technology Center.

For the in-school suspension program, supervisors have been hired for middle and high school students — who are kept separate. Since Aug. 21, 84 high school students and 24 middle school students have been serviced at the suspension facility, with a total of eight out-of-school suspensions required, according to Brown’s report.

Chromebooks will be provided for student use at both The Academy and Horizons, and additional curriculum — such as financial literacy — is being provided for the in-school suspension program to keep students busy if they do not have enough school-assigned work to complete during their suspensions.

Brown said some programs, including a graduate profile to pinpoint expectations from preschool to graduation, support for home school students, and the potential of offering an associate’s degree in sciences and arts, among other ideas, are being discussed.

SRO program developing

Chief Operating Officer Tim Hockensmith said he expects to have a school resource officer position posted in the near future. The position would be a classified position, and would not require a 30-day posting before hiring. The board had previously approved the creation of an SRO program, something community members and teachers had desired while taking part in summer forums.

Schools seeking grants

Nelson County FFA is applying for $1,000 in grant from the Kentucky FFA Foundation, through the Better Days For Better Ways program, to support an upcoming service project. The students will raise chicks, learn about slaughtering and take part in workshops on meal preparation. The processed poultry will go to the local Bread for Life pantry.

Team Up! and Village Family Resource and Youth Services Centers are each applying for grants through Tri-County United Way. Team Up! FRYSC, representing Cox’s Creek, Foster Heights and Old Kentucky Home, is applying for $2,500. The Village FRYSC, representing Boston, New Haven and the Early Learning Center, is applying for $2,100. The grants will provide additional funding for FRYSC programs and resources.

Brown gives superintendent report

Interim Superintendent Tom Brown said the start of school has gone well, and he is proud of the Central Office staff, principals, teachers and others for making that happen.

“As an interim, I’m not here to make sweeping changes,” Brown said. “But we are trying to identify small little pieces of things that need improvement and to try and solve those programs.”

Brown’s statement referenced a reorganization of the administrative staff and job descriptions, changes to the alternative school program as previously referenced by Kim Brown, and bringing back an SRO program. Brown is also looking forward to the additional nursing staff coming to the district.