On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to place a nurse in all 1,800 New York City public schools this fall.
De Blasio sees it as another layer of caution to keep the schools safe for children and teachers to return to when classes are scheduled to resume on Sept. 10. The school buildings have not been open since March 16, when de Blasio closed them due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all instruction was shifted to remote learning.
“We’re taking every precaution but there is tremendous value to having a health professional present,” de Blasio said during a morning press conference.
The Department of Education will work with the city’s Health + Hospital system to staff schools which has committed to hiring 400 contract nurses, both RNS and LPNS, to be deployed in 359 schools by the first day of classes, according to HHC. It is unclear just how many nursing position vacancies there are in schools given that a number of school nurses have applied for medical accommodation as part of the mayor’s reopening plan, allowing them to work remotely.
“They did an amazing job at the height of the crisis bringing in additional healthcare heroes and they are going to do it again and make sure that we have enough nurses for every single school and to show all the folks who have been raising this concern, I hear you loud and clear,” de Blasio added.
But some elected officials, parents and education advocates have raised concerns over Thursday’s announcement.
Details are important on announcement on nurses. Is NYC pulling nurses from public hospitals? Are they relying on contract nurses, which posed challenges in March due to high vacancy #? There’s still a parity issue between DOE/DOHMH nurses unresolved that contributed to vacancies
— Mark Treyger (@MarkTreyger718) August 13, 2020
There has been a long-time shortage of nurses in New York City schools and the issue resurfaced during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic. To address this shortage, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza pledged to place a nurse in every public school. According to the United Teachers Federation, about 70,000 students attend a school without a nurse. In order to address the shortage, the city hired 85 contract nurses.
The shortage is in part fueled by a pay disparity between nurses hired by the city’s Department of Health, which hires the majority of school nurses, and the Department of Education. Those that are hired by the UFT receive higher pay, by at least $10,000, along with benefits and a pension.
The announcement came a day after the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) and the United Federation of Teachers requested a delay in reopening New York City public schools. The unions argue that there are too many unanswered questions related to keeping educators safe on the job, and children safe in their classrooms. The UFT though played a critical role in creating the current re-opening plan.