By Heather Cherone on March 4, 2015 7:50am
NORWOOD PARK — Beard Elementary School, which serves students with special needs, has a new nurse after Ald. John Arena(45th) said students were not getting the care they needed, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Tuesday.
Beard’s gain — which came after Arena criticized CPS officials at a board meeting in December for not assigning a full-time nurse to the school, forcing teachers to administer medication — is Oriole Park Elementary School’s loss, officials said.
Nursing assignments are designed “to meet the needs and educational plans of all students,” CPS spokesman Lauren Huffman said.
The additional nurse at Beard, 6445 W. Strong St., is needed by the school’s 160 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade who have a variety of medical and developmental issues, Huffman said. The nurse will also work at other area schools, she added.
Ald. Mary O’Connor (41st), whose ward includes Oriole Park Elementary School, said she was “outraged” that a nurse was transferred from a school in her ward and vowed to resolve the issue.
“Parents, teachers, and administrators in my community deserve to have the piece of mind that comes with knowing that these critical resources will be there when they need them the most and I will not rest until they do,” said O’Connor, who will face Chicago firefighter Anthony Napolitano on April 7 in her bid to win re-election.
Owen Brugh, Arena’s chief of staff, said every school deserves to have a full-time nurse, but given the size of the CPS nursing staff, schools such as Beard that serve students with special needs must be given priority.
Brugh said the alderman was “not happy” to hear that Oriole Park elementary was losing a nurse.
“It’s a shame that the current system pits schools against each other for limited resources,” Brugh said.
Approximately 160 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade with a variety of medical and developmental issues attend Beard elementary, 6445 W. Strong St.
Arena faces a runoff on April 7 against Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido, whom the alderman defeated in 2011 by 30 votes.
Although both schools are in Norwood Park, Beard is in Arena’s 45th Ward and Oriole Park is in the 41st Ward.
CPS has approximately 450 nurses on staff at any given time, with approximately 200 of them rotating among schools across the district, Huffman said.
Oriole Park Elementary Principal Tim Riff said he was “certainly concerned” his school, 5424 N. Oketo Ave., will only have a nurse on duty Mondays.
“All staff have been trained in diabetes, asthma and allergies,” Riff said in a statement. “This training does not erase the need for a nurse, but it does provide some measure of comfort. Of course, we feel that Oriole Park should have a full-time nurse, but that does not seem possible in the current landscape of CPS.”
Nurse Norma Virgilio, whose last day at Oriole Park was Feb. 16, “is a capable and caring nurse, and we will miss her dearly,” Riff said.
Oriole Park Elementary School Local School Council Vice Chairwoman Kristen Campos said the council was disappointed not to have a full-time nurse at the school.
“We know that our faculty and staff always have the best interest of our children at heart,” Campos said, noting that the council was not informed or asked by CPS officials about the reassignment.
Earlier this month, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called for CPS officials to increase the number of school nurses on duty, indicating that the issue would be on the table during upcoming contract negotiations.
In December, CPS asked private companies to submit proposals to provide school nurses and health management services in an effort to save money.
Those proposals will help CPS develop a “cost-effective and demand-driven model to meet the needs of all students — general education and those with special needs,” Huffman said.