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Union cries foul at District’s plans to outsource substitutes, medical care

Photo: Laura Benshoff | WHYY

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The mother of a 4th grader with medical needs at Lingelbach Elementary school in Philadelphia says private agency nurses did not work out for her son.

"They weren’t invested in my child. They didn’t know the signs that I expected them to know, when he was in distress," said Sabrina Jones. Her biggest concerns were "the level of care and the inconsistency" of having different nurses on different days.

Put off by Philadelphia School District-assigned private nurses, Jones sought out a school with a full-time nurse and ended up at Lingelbach Elementary in Northwest Philadelphia. Her son, who can’t eat without assistance, has found a "safe haven" with that school’s nurse, she said.

"Nurses, they’re nurturers," said Jones. "They’re not just there for the health issue."

Jones shared her experiences at a press conference held by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which represents school nurses, criticizing recent requests for proposals from the District for outside help in substitute teacher staffing and providing medical care in schools. Now, the District fills just 64 percent of available substitute jobs.

At the press conference, PFT president Jerry Jordan called into question the qualifications of outside medical staff who could replace nurses. "This is not a job you can simply hire a private health care worker to do at the same level of expertise," he said.

Democratic City Council candidate Helen Gym, Councilman Bobby Henon and Ron Whitehorne of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools also appeared at the news conference.

"You can’t schedule an accident," said Gym, who said she’d like to see a full-time nurse in every school. The requests for proposals, she said, show that the District has the wrong priorities, spending money on untried academic programs instead of core staff.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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