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School districts could soon be getting grant funds to hire school nurses if Senate Bill 2235 passes

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 6:50 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - There is a need for school nurses across the state, and this was apparent even before the pandemic began.

State lawmakers heard a bill that would help school districts fill that need.

Senate Bill 2235 establishes a school nurse grant program, administered by the state Department of Health, that provides funds to eligible school districts to hire school nurses.

Taking care of children’s health needs is a big responsibility, and few know that better than Solheim Elementary school nurse Lindsay Turnbow.

“I had a teacher of a Type 1 diabetic student tell me how nice it was that I was here every day because she could just focus on teaching. You know, she didn’t have to worry about the other stuff because she knew there was someone there in the building that was keeping an eye on her,” said Turnbow.

The nurse who worked at Solheim before Turnbow looked after students at two schools, but recently, the district found enough funds to keep one nurse at Solheim all day, which has been especially important during the pandemic.

“It puts so much on the secretaries to have to give meds and do phone calls and do sick calls. So it’s just, I think it’s been nice and the teachers, too. They know what my hours are. They’re consistent, they can send them down,” said Turnbow.

Other districts haven’t been so fortunate.

“We are having to ask the question of ‘do we add a teacher or do we add a nurse?.’ This bill would allow us to like someone else stated, is that it would allow us to be able to potentially add a nurse without the financial risk of doing so or having to reduce our staff in other ways,” said Devils Lake School Superintendent Matt Bakke.

Many small and rural school district administrators say they’ve been able to get through this pandemic because of the CARES Act funding they’ve received, but that money won’t always be there.

“There are limited resources, and these rural school districts, especially, have found it very difficult to hire school nurses,” said Grand Forks County Director of Administration Tom Ford. The Bismarck Public School District hired three nurses this year with CARES Act funding, in addition to the ten already on staff.

BPS nurse coordinator Kate Gartner is hoping the district can find the funding to keep the additional nurses on board moving forward.

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