Cherry Creek school district considers replacing nurses with medical technicians

School districts can't afford registered nurses

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - Cherry Creek school district reevaluates whether to keep nurses in every school, after nearly a dozen leave this year.

Until the 2013-2014 school year, Cherry Creek district has kept a registered nurse in every school building district-wide. This year, nine nurses are no longer on staff and some of those nurses may now be responsible for multiple buildings. Spokesperson Tustin Amole said the issue comes down to the district's budget.

"One of our problems is that we don’t pay competitive salaries here at the school district," Amole said. "We don't pay very well, that was one of the reasons why we've been able to sustain a nurse in every school model."

A breakdown of school nurse salaries in the metro-area shows Cherry Creek at the lowest with an annual salary of $27,924. Annual salaries in JeffCo, Aurora and Denver range from $34,000 to $38,000. Littleton school nurses are contracted with Children's Hospital and listed at the top with an annual salary of $91,000.

Amole said the district has formed a task force that will look at several options to address the nursing shortage. So far, all of the options discussed include putting nurses on the teacher salary schedule. Two of the options also include cutting back on registered nurses and replacing them with medical technicians.

"Now we have to go back, re-examine our model and see what we can do that we can realistically sustain and that ensures the health and safety of our students," Amole said.

Amole explained that medical technicians are not licensed, but would be trained by a nurse on how to perform skills like administering insulin, feeding tubes and basic medical needs.

7NEWS checked with other metro-area districts. All schools have switched to the model of less nurses and more aides. Below is a breakdown of school-to-nurse ratios from the schools who responded.

Aurora Public School District: 1-4 schools to one nurse, health paraprofessionals in each elementary school.
Boulder Valley School District: 6 to 8 schools to one nurse, health paraprofessional in each building.
Denver Public School District: 2-3 schools to to one nurse, health paraprofessionals also on staff.
Douglas County School District: 2-4 schools to one nurse, designated health assistant in each school.

Amole said the task force is in the beginning process but they hope to have a new model in place by the end of the school year.