breaking news

US government shuts down; Dems, GOP blame each other

After parent complaints, Seton sends more nurses into Austin schools


Seton now will have 73 nurses providing care at Austin schools, an additional 33 nurses from earlier this year

AISD more than 20 years ago eliminated registered nurses from every elementary campus to save money.

Parents pushed back against the move toward telemedicine, urging officials to bring back more nurses.

After pushback from parents and nurses who voiced concern over student safety, Seton Healthcare Family announced Wednesday it will pay up to $1.8 million to increase the number of nurses the Austin school district has on its campuses.

The district contracts with Seton for student health services, this year paying $7.1 million, which includes mental health services. Seton this year reduced the number of registered nurses on campuses by nine to 41, but planned to nearly double the number of health assistants to 80. That meant the nurses spent less time on campuses, had less interaction with students and had less direct supervision of the health assistants, which some nurses said could be a liability.

Seton now will add another 33 nurses to Austin’s schools, bringing the total to at least 73. The remaining 58 health assistants already hired will remain in place.

“We’ve heard parents’ concerns and we value their input,” said Kristi Henderson, who leads the AISD student health services program at Seton, along with Medical Director Dr. Mark Shen. “We also know that RNs are a trusted source for parents. We aim to bring in more of these trusted experts into schools so they, along with parents, will help develop a long-term, sustainable plan to help care for Austin’s children.”

Previously, secondary schools had full time nurses but other nurses split their time among multiple elementary campuses. This year, the elementary nurses were charged with covering even more schools remotely, as health assistants were instead assigned to the elementary schools.

The change included a greater reliance on telemedicine, with nurses providing care to some students via videoconferencing software. But the change also meant fewer nurses for the district’s youngest students.

Parents were alarmed by the change, made without formal notification to families, and urged district and Seton officials to reverse it.

By putting more nurses in schools, each large elementary and middle school will have a full-time nurse, while medium-sized elementaries and middle schools will share one nurse and one health assistant. Small schools will have full-time health assistants in each school and a shared nurse.

The Austin district more than 20 years ago eliminated registered nurses at every elementary campus to save money. The district has since contracted with Seton, which decides how to provide those services.

“Austin ISD has trusted Seton to deliver high-quality care for students,” said Edmund Oropez, the district’s chief officer for teaching and learning. “We trust their expertise to do what is best for our students’ health.”

Parent Kelly Tarun, who has fought to bring nurses back to the campuses, said she is grateful for the improvement, but more must be done.

“This stop-gap measure, while it shows they’re listening and are hearing our concerns as parents, is not a long term solution and can’t be sustained,” Tarun said regarding this year’s $1.8 million investment by Seton.

Tarun said many parents, who weren’t around two decades ago when the district made the decision to cut nurses, didn’t know that the health assistants are not licensed medical health professionals.

The district, along with Seton, will create an advisory group to provide input on a long-term health services plan.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

US government shuts down; Dems, GOP blame each other
US government shuts down; Dems, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunction. Last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap...
Peace be with you, but no touching: Flu season alters mass in this state
Peace be with you, but no touching: Flu season alters mass in this state

Widespread influenza across Maine has prompted the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland to alter some traditions to keep parishioners healthy. The diocese announced Thursday that it's suspending the sharing of consecrated wine during communion and holding hands during the Lord's Prayer. The diocese is also discouraging parishioners from shaking hands...
Texas joins legal battle against tree firm blamed in 2011 Bastrop fire
Texas joins legal battle against tree firm blamed in 2011 Bastrop fire

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Friday joined hundreds of other people in suing a tree-trimming company they blame for the 2011 fire that ravaged Bastrop State Park and Bastrop County. Asplundh Tree Expert Co., the lawsuit argues, diverted crews away from tree-trimming along the power lines it was responsible...
TRAFFIC UPDATE: All lanes of I-35 in Buda now open after crash, police say 
TRAFFIC UPDATE: All lanes of I-35 in Buda now open after crash, police say 

7:15 p.m. update: The crash has been cleared and all lanes of northbound Interstate 35 are now open, Buda officials said. 7:05 p.m. update: No major injuries have been reported in a crash that has shut down most of northbound Interstate 35 in Buda, city officials said Friday evening.  Three vehicles were involved in the wreck, officials said....
U.S. judge orders fixes to ‘still broken’ Texas foster care system

The Texas foster care system remains broken and continues to place children at risk, a federal judge ruled Friday, adding that state officials have shown a “troubling unwillingness” to fix problems the court had identified in a similar 2015 order. Overruling numerous objections raised by lawyers for Texas, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham...
More Stories