Changes to School Health Services Program, Concerns, and What You Can Do

The Department of Health is changing the method of delivering school health services and school nurse staffing allocations starting in January 2017.

For background, see the slide presentation made at two community forums in October to explain these changes or read more information on the school health services program here.

Overview of the changes

According to the DOH presentation, the goals of the changes is to improve health outcomes for our students and standardize level of care provided. Changes reflect an underlying belief that public health initiatives for schools don’t require a credentialed nurse in each school 40 hours per week, despite documented value of school nurses.

There will be a new algorithm to determine whether a school gets 20 or 40 hours per week of nurse coverage will be based on four elements: children with special health needs; enrollment; health suite use; profile data. These data will be reassessed monthly, so coverage could increase or decrease monthly at a school if one or more of the data points changes.

DOH plans to staff point people at schools to calculate the algorithm and identify student needs related to Individual Health Plans. The goal is to improve health outcomes for DCPS students (currently only 40% of DC public school students have complete universal health forms, which includes up-to-date immunizations).

When a nurse is not there, schools will be responsible for using its own staff to cover health needs, or calling 911.

Concerns raised about these changes

* Decreased coverage in light of national recommendations (CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend full-time school nurses)

* Possible need to rely more heavily on 911 when the nurses aren’t there

* Starting a new program in the middle of the school year

* Lack of transparency and community engagement in how decisions were made about the changes and what is driving the need for cost savings?

How you can help

1. Send feedback ASAP on school nursing (to help provide Ward 6 perspectives to the City Council). Send us an email at or share feedback this form:

Please share:
* What is the value of school nurses to you personally or your school community?
* What is the impact on your school when school staff has to cover nursing duties when a school nurse is not on site?
* Name of your school

2. Sign a petition from the Washington Teachers’ Union and the DC Nurses Association. Every Child Deserves a Full-Time Nurse in His or Her School

3. Testify in front of the City Council or submit written testimony for the Education Committee’s Public Roundtable on School Health Services Program on Oct. 25:
Note: If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Written statements should be submitted via email to or by mail to the Committee on Education, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 116 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on November 8, 2016.

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