Panel To Study Issue Of Training For School Health Aides

Many Uneasyover Proposal To Require Assistants To Get Lpn Training

July 14, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

School officials, responding to concerns about a proposal to upgradetraining for health assistants, have formed a committee to study thematter further.

Included on the committee are officials from the Carroll Association of School Employees, which represents health aides, as well as clerical and secretarial workers and licensed practicalnurses.

The committee will meet during the summer and is expected to submit a proposal to the school board this fall, Superintendent R. EdwardShilling said.

"We're not in a hurry to do this," he said. "We'renot going to push this through. We do want to hear everyone's concerns."

More stringent Maryland Department of Education requirements and a rise in the number of students with serious or multiple health problems prompted the staff to upgrade training.

The proposal submitted to the board last month recommended that all school-based health personnel be trained in licensed practical nursing. The deadline for workers to comply was set for September 1994.

To meet those requirements, health aides would be allowed to take a one-year, unpaid leave of absence, providing they had satisfactory or better annual evaluations and had been accepted into an LPN training program.

If theworker obtained LPN status by the end of the year, he or she could return to the former positions. There are 11 health aides in the school system.

A resident who spoke at last week's board meeting calledthe proposal "a very arbitrary way to treat people who play such an important role" in the schools.

Sharon Fisher, CASE president, said the association does not oppose upgrading health aide training but argued that the proposal, as presented to the board, would create hardships on workers.

"The problem is asking the existing 11 health aides to take a leave of absence without pay to get schooling," Fishersaid. "It's not possible to do that in a year. We've asked the boardnot to do that."

To take a year's unpaid leave, she said, is not possible because many of the health aides, whose lengths of service range from three to 17 years, have families to support.

In addition, she said children with serious or multiple health problems are being cared for properly in the schools. The district, she said, exceeds the state requirements and has attempted to replace health assistantswith LPN's through attrition.

The CASE recommendations include establishing four fully paid sabbatical leaves per year; development ofcourse programs during the summer months; development of procedures for alternative placement; and providing emergency medical treatment.

The current duties of health assistants include working during school hours to administer first aid to pupils, supervising students inthe health room and notifying parents of accidents and illnesses.

The staff's proposal has brought a slew of letters from parents and teachers testifying to the competency of health assistants at East Middle and William Winchester and Elmer A. Wolfe elementary schools.

The letters also recommended alternatives to requiring aides to get training.

"I ask that you give health assistants a fair shake and allow them to work while pursuing this license," wrote Stephanie M. Szymanski, a Westminster resident and mother of a William Winchester Elementary student.

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