School leaders, state leaders discuss back-to-school wellness plan proposals

Health and safety inside Alabama schools

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - State leaders and school leaders are asking Governor Kay Ivey to fund their back-to-school health and safety plans to keep your child safe in the fall.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey confirmed he sent a request to Governor Ivey’s office in June asking the state for $72 million in federal funding to distribute to schools so that they could enhance safety measures. That would equate to at least $50,000 per school with leaders given options on safety measures they could fund.

“Those grants could be used to extend nurse contracts, to hire more nurses,” said Dr. Mackey, “To extend many things around the nursing campus. We have many that don’t have running water.”

As Governor Ivey weighs that proposal, a bipartisan group of state senators along with state nurses hope she’ll fund their reopening plan.

“When the roadmap came out,” said Kristine McClary, Alabama Association of School Nurses, “We saw this as an absolutely beautiful opportunity to dovetail our plan into their plan so the directives given by the state could be fully implemented.”

The group’s 4-prong “Safely Reopening School” plan costs more than double Dr. Mackey’s plan at $150 million, but the group says it will provide equity in school health resources for every school regardless of district or funding.

Part one of the plan involves hiring enough nurses for every school in the state. Part two involves the construction for a free-standing quarantine isolation unit at each school.

Dr. Mackey’s plan notes that schools should designate an isolation area, but based on a survey conducted by the Alabama Association of School Nurses’ -- 88.7 percent of districts don’t have one.

The plan also calls for equipment to check students’ temperatures and rapid COVID testing equipment.

The plan is backed by State Senator Jabo Waggoner, Senator Jim McClendon, and Senate Majority Leader Bobby Singleton who said in a release to media “Without this program all students are at an increased risk.”

The Alabama State Nurses Association has also backed this plan. The Executive Director, Dr. John Ziegler, releasing this statement to WBRC:

“There are 100,000 nurses in Alabama. ASNA represents nurses of all specialties and we are 100% in favor of the School Nurse Association plan to set up appropriate clinical facilities in every Alabama school with a qualified RN(s) in place. This is THE single most urgent and practical plan yet presented to protect our state’s most precious assets - our children, teachers, and communities.”

The groups say the 4-part plan is written where it could be funded fully or separately.

Superintendent Mackey says he is familiar with that plan, has talked to state leaders about it, and there could be some flexibility in combining them.

“There’s some fluid room in our plan,” said Dr. Mackey,“They overlap greatly, but are there some things in their plan that we could incorporate ours.”

The money requested for each proposal would come from the roughly 1.9 billion in CARES Act money.

WBRC reached out to Governor Ivey’s office and was told they are working with Dr. Mackey to determine if this is a proposal he wants to move forward with.

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.