AUSTIN (KXAN) — On the first day of school, parents in the Austin Independent School District tell KXAN they were hit with a surprise.
Stephanie Miller says parents are telling each other Registered Nurses were going away at all elementary school campuses, including Davis Elementary where her daughter, Amber, is a fourth grader.
“I’m concerned for all the other children who are like my son who have life-threatening food allergies, who have asthma, who have diabetes or other types of conditions that require immediate medical care,” said Miller.
Last school year, Miller says the campus had a part-time RN and a part-time student health assistant to cover medical needs during the school day. It’s her understanding from this point forward the school will only have a student health assistant.
But Seton Family Healthcare, who contracts nurses for AISD, tells KXAN there will still be some presence of RN’s on elementary school campuses. The hospital group is introducing new virtual technology tools to allow student health assistants on each campus to reach an RN via video conference.
“We are bringing nurses to [the students] at a moment, with the click of a button… so the nurse and the student health assistant are working closer together than ever before,” said Kristi Henderson, vice president of virtual care and innovation for Seton.
Henderson says they have not eliminated any nursing positions and stressed that the level of care will not suffer.
KXAN first started digging into ptential changes to health care at AISD schools in March of 2017 after receiving an anonymous tip that the total number of school nurses were being cut. Seton Healthcare Family has contracted with the district since 1995 to provide health care services at all schools. At the time, KXAN learned Seton would be charging $2 million more than what AISD budgeted, but no decisions had been made.
Parents are also questioning the lack of communication from the district.
“I would’ve liked advanced notice of this,” said Miller. “I had no idea of this change.”
Seton said the district may be sending the information to parents in student folders this week, but Henderson was not positive and added that it’s all still a work in progress.
“We truly just in the last few weeks have been able to deploy all of the technology to every campus,” said Henderson.
KXAN reached out to AISD to find out how the changes were communicated to parents. AISD executive director of communications Reyne Telles sent the following statement:
Austin ISD will continue to provide full-time health professionals to support all students. We are joining a growing number of districts across the nation using virtual care. This technology allows full-time nurses to have eyes on students based on medical need, gives the health team more time on AISD campuses and reduces the need for nurses to travel between schools. In addition to our campuses having access to this service, our students are also supported by certified health assistants at all of our campuses.