I-TEAM: Some students returning to schools with no full-time nurse

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 7:37 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Parents, our I-Team is also doing some homework for you. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends each school have its own full-time nurse, but our our I-Team found that’s not the case for thousands of our local kids. We found some of your kids could be returning to school without a nurse at all.

The I-Team crunched data from five local districts in all.

Let’s start in Richmond County, where the I-Team found the majority of school nurse vacancies. Ten schools have their own nurse but the more than 40 share them. All current openings affect schools that share a nurse.

The Richmond County School System also lost a considerable amount of nurses this year when compared to last. In all six nurses are not returning this school year. Three retired and the other three left.

The district tells the I-Team, “We are actively recruiting and interviewing nurses and have plans to outsource any nursing vacancies.”

As a whole, Richmond County has a much better school nurse ratio than Columbia County. Richmond County has around 29,000 students and Columbia has grown to about 27,000. The CDC recommends one school nurse per 750 students, and with 33 nurses, Richmond County is around four or five nurses short of that.

Columbia County, meanwhile, only has 19 nurses. To be in line with CDC recommendations, the district would need to hire 17 more, which would almost double its current number. There are no schools in Columbia County with their own, full-time nurse. Instead, nurses are based at each elementary school but cover middle and high schools four hours a week. There is one vacancy at Greenbrier Middle, so that means three schools are affected in all. We’re told the district is interviewing candidates for the job.

Now to Aiken County, which has the most school nurses at 39.

The district tells the I-Team, “All elementary, middle, and high schools have a full time, dedicated nurse.”

There’s only one vacancy at Redcliffe Elementary. Eight of Aiken County’s previous school nurses are not returning this year.

In neighboring Edgefield County, each school has its own full-time, dedicated nurse. At seven nurses, the district tells the I-Team all positions are filled and all nurses are returning. Leaders in Burke County also tell the I-Team they are in good shape with five full-time nurses, one medical assistant, and two substitute nurses. Each school has its own full-time nurse. All returned this year and the only openings they have are for subs.

Keep in mind the recommendation for a nurse at every school came out years before the pandemic. And of course we have last year under our belts. The problem this year could be the delta variant affecting a younger population. Experts urge all students to wear masks and suggest those eligible to get the vaccine to do so.

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