School nurses and librarians: necessary, not optional

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School nurses and librarians: necessary, not optional

PVHS nurse Pam Cinadr (left) and PVHS librarian Carissa McDonald (right) smile together, knowing the work they do directly impacts PV's students.

PVHS nurse Pam Cinadr (left) and PVHS librarian Carissa McDonald (right) smile together, knowing the work they do directly impacts PV's students.

Photo taken by Sarah Danielson

PVHS nurse Pam Cinadr (left) and PVHS librarian Carissa McDonald (right) smile together, knowing the work they do directly impacts PV's students.

Photo taken by Sarah Danielson

Photo taken by Sarah Danielson

PVHS nurse Pam Cinadr (left) and PVHS librarian Carissa McDonald (right) smile together, knowing the work they do directly impacts PV's students.

Sarah Danielson, Copy Editor

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A bill that would eliminate the requirement for Iowa schools to hire full-time nurses and librarians was introduced in the Iowa Legislator by Iowa Senate Republicans at the end of February.

Although this bill was not passed after considerable opposition, its very introduction in the Senate is worrisome and suggests a lack of consideration regarding the important role school nurses and librarians play in our schools and in the lives of students.

The bill created a conversation. Because of its number of supporters, it would be foolish to believe that the conversation stopped when the bill did. Should a similar bill ever come up again, one thing needs to be made crystal clear: school districts should not have the option of whether to hire school nurses and librarians.

Their involvement in schools is essential, not optional.

This bill addressed many areas. However, its main goal was to increase the power of local school districts by giving them more control over decisions like this.

While school districts should be able to make choices for themselves, they should not be able to make choices that change necessary parts of a child’s growth. Nurses and librarians are an integral part of schools, especially regarding students’ health and knowledge.

Without nurses and the ready access to health care they provide, students’ health problems may become even more dangerous. PVHS nurse Pam Cinadr commented on her view of the bill and the effects it could have on students. “It’s frightening when you think about the number of students in the building with serious health conditions–who is going to be responsible for them?”

If a student had a health emergency that needed to be taken care of right away, it would be better to have a nurse in the building, rather than having to wait for an ambulance. This is especially true for rural schools, where the ambulance wait times may be even longer with the increased distance from hospitals.

The absence of school nurses would also complicate the daily procedures of students living with health conditions. Many students at the school are living with factors that affect their health, such as allergies and diabetes. By removing the school nurse, the chance of complications regarding these conditions would increase.

Aside from the practical aspects, school nurses form remarkable relationships with the students they interact with daily. Senior Joslyn Schafer agreed. “Nurses in school are an important concept overall because they teach students the basic importance of overall health.” However, her close relationship with Cinadr is what has truly made an impact on her life.

To Schafer, Cinadr is truly a friend. She elaborated on their relationship. “[Cinadr] has had a pretty big impact on my high school life. I have never really been super close to any of my teachers, so when I was stressed or confused I never really knew who to talk to.”

However, this changed after Schafer met the PVHS nurses. “[My friend] and I started chit-chatting with the nurses during lunch and created a strong bond. I now enjoy my visits to the nurse’s office, and I’m very glad that I can have this friendship,” she said.

School librarians provide an equally important skill set to schools. Aside from having the power to order books and holding a license to teach, librarians also have special skills that make them very knowledgeable in areas regarding a student’s learning.

English teacher Jenni Levora commented on some of these areas and on the importance of these positions in schools. “Teacher-librarians provide valuable support for guiding students through research, media literacy, and reading growth,” she said.

Levora also emphasized the help librarians provide to teachers. “Working collaboratively [with librarians] gives us a broader perspective and provides more consistent one-on-one help.” PVHS librarian Carissa McDonald also mentioned this point. “[Without librarians,] more would fall to the classroom teacher, and they would have even more work. They already have a lot of other things on their plate,” she said.

I think it’s academic negligence not to have a librarian in every building. Without one, I think that it would be academically devastating.”

— Carissa McDonald

McDonald believes every school district needs a librarian. “I think it’s academic negligence not to have a librarian in every building. Without one, I think that it would be academically devastating,” she said.

This is true no matter a school district’s size or location. In fact, McDonald said that need sometimes increases when the school’s size decreases. “Smaller schools have greater need [for librarians] as they are not as close to cultural opportunities,” she said.   

According to the Des Moines Register, another goal this bill was trying to achieve was to eliminate the redundancy of the health screening test system. Currently, parents have to send their students’ health screening results to the school, even though health care providers already send the results to the Department of Public Health.

However, the proponents of this bill wanted to eliminate the role of schools with health screening tests. Instead, they wanted the parents to send these tests directly to the Department of Public Health.

What may be easier for the school district may not be easier for parents though. Opponents of this bill believed it would be easier for parents to correspond with the schools rather than the bureaucracies; in this way, the bill passing could make the process become harder for parents.

Cinadr also believes the implementation of this proposal could have negative effects on students. Without the school districts having a direct handle on the health screening tests, some kids may not have as much access to these tests and may fall through the cracks. Currently, the Pleasant Valley School District has a program that helps give some students access to things such as health tests.

There are some gray areas regarding this bill. One cannot assume every school district in the state of Iowa is the same; each one has a different background, location, population, and budget.

Some of the reasoning for this bill had its merits; some rural schools may not have the same budgets and may need to make cuts in some areas. This is true; schools need to control their budget in a way that produces the best results. But those cuts should not be in an area that puts students’ health or learning environment at jeopardy, like the elimination of school nurses and librarians.

To McDonald, the disappearance of school nurses and librarians would be very detrimental. “It’s close to me because it is what I do. It is about my state and how I feel that Iowa has had a good education program–this would be a huge missing piece. When you take away other professionals [at the school], you are not giving the kids everything you need to.”

Levora summed up the influential role of school nurses and librarians by saying they are “the foundational support of the school.”   

Principal Mike Zimmer agreed with the importance of school nurses and librarians. According to him, Pleasant Valley’s administration did not support this bill. He asserted that even if this bill had passed, the school district would still have employed the same number of school nurses and librarians. In the future, he actually hopes to increase the number of these positions in the PV district.

Although this bill caused discord, Cinadr was happy to see the support and unity of those opposed. “I have seen so many people come together,” she said.

A large number of students and staff at PV would agree that the role school nurses and librarians play is vital–they remain an integral part of schools, and it should remain that way.