MASON CITY — The Mason City School Board earlier this week voted to cut the hours of school nurses at all district buildings starting next school year.

School administrators made the recommendation to cut the hours which were increased during the pandemic back down to an equivalency that is in line with most other school districts around the state.

Human Resources Director Tom Dryzcimski says the extra hours during the pandemic were made available due to $1.2 million in funding from a pandemic relief program that is no longer available. Dryzcimski says with that lack of pandemic funding, the district is trying to retain teachers while at the same time keep nurses in all district buildings.  “The scenario proposed retains all eight nurses but reduces full-time equivalents from eight to 6.475, Total contract hours go from 320 to 259. The reduction results in just over $104,000 of the $1.2 million in reductions we need to make for 2023-24. The recommended schedule results in coverage at all times students are present except at Pinecrest.”

Superintendent Pat Hamilton says not addressing the loss of that $1.2 million in pandemic funding now would mean more budget problems for the district down the line.  “We have $1.2 million in district funds that are leaving our budget next year. Where school districts get in trouble is when they don’t address the issue and they push it down the road. That compounds. In a year or two, it’s over $2 million. In three years, it’s over $4 million. Then you start to run into those problems that we don’t have the cash to back up any of our bills.”

Harding Elementary School nurse Julie Fritz says reducing the hours will mean school nurses won’t be able to help families and students effectively.  “We as nurses are the liaisons for our families and students. Many of our families depend on us for healthcare for their children. Reducing our hours is like telling the teachers in this district to come to school, teach the kids, and then figure out when you’ll do your lesson plans. We will not be able to effectively do our job without our prep time as well. Immunization records, writing health plans, attending meetings after school, training staff and many other responsibilities will be negatively affected as we will not have enough time to get them completed.”

Fritz says having nurses in school buildings from before to after school helps promote a better academic environment.  “Appropriate school nurse staffing is related to better student attendance and academic success. When there is a school nurse present, a principal gains nearly an hour per day and teachers gain an extra 20 minutes a day to focus on students’ education instead of the student health needs. You want the Mason City School District to be the destination district. Instead of reducing the nursing hours, I would encourage you to promote that, that you have nursing services in your buildings and use this as a great reason to get students to attend our schools.”

The School Board passed the proposal on a 5-1 vote, with board members Peterson Jean-Pierre, Cindy Garza, Carol Dettmer, Katherine Koehler and Alan Steckman approving. Brent Seaton was the lone no vote. Board member Lorrie Lala was not present at the meeting.