WATERLOO — A $2.01 million contract that would put a registered nurse in every school building was approved Monday by the Board of Education.
The agreement with UnityPoint Health-Waterloo will increase the nurses working in Waterloo Community Schools by eight for a total of 19. It will decrease health assistants by two to 17.
A contract was first considered last month, but the board postponed a decision when no consensus emerged about staffing level increases. Initially, district administrators had recommended increasing from 11 to 15 nurses and maintaining 19 health assistants at a cost of $1.8 million. That was an increase of $397,487 from the current year.
Some board members were concerned those numbers wouldn’t allow enough flexibility for staff to handle student needs that may develop across the district on a given day.
“Some schools have by far more students who have health issues, severe health issues,” said Marla Padget, executive director of student and at-risk services. “With this (full-time equivalent staffing), we have the flexibility.”
That means staff will be able to be moved around as needed while meeting needs at each school, she explained. “And remember, they do have their own doctors, too. We don’t want to replace their doctors.”
Superintendent Jane Lindaman noted that even with the new level of staffing there will be times when others, like school office workers, may have to lend a hand with student health needs.
“They will have to step in, absolutely,” she said. “Sometimes the principal steps in.”
The difference in the new contract is that each school will have a nurse primarily assigned to it, officials noted. The health assistants will help to ensure that the nurses can respond to other schools as needed.
In other business, the board set July 8 to issue approximately $31.91 million in sales tax revenue refunding bonds, consolidating 2013 bond and 2017 bond refunding issues.
“We will sell new bonds to replace the old ones at a lower (interest) rate,” said Michael Coughlin, Waterloo Schools’ chief financial officer. “The projected savings is over $2 million.”
He explained, “We’ve been watching this for over a year. If markets got favorable, we would address this.”
Interest rates have “dropped a considerable amount” from what the bonds had been sold at, said Coughlin. “So, this is a favorable time.”