ITHACA, N.Y.—In a relatively brief meeting, especially for this current era of the Ithaca City School District Board of Education, the looming staffing issues that have partially fueled calls that changes to school reopening should be considered were addressed—at least to a certain extent.
The focus of Tuesday’s meeting was nursing staff, which will be one of the most important positions in the next few weeks as the various ICSD schools attempt to safely reopen their classrooms—schools in which nurses will be tasked with leading safety protocols and testing measures. Board president Rob Ainslie said there would be another meeting, held Sept. 7, where more hires would likely be made and, more crucially, further substantive reopening discussions would be conducted, potentially using the extra time to gauge what community transmission looks like at that point.
The meeting was so brief that Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown didn’t address the board, except to confirm that he thought having another meeting next week would be beneficial. Mainly, the meeting was a conversation between Chief Operations Officer Amanda Verba and the present board members about contracting with LifeSpan, a pediatric healthcare company (see the full agreement here). Some school buildings, it had been said at previous meetings, would struggle to
It did not specify how many nurses would be needed, presumably because there is no set number and they will be called in when and if staffing demands it.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” acknowledged Verba. The district’s staffing issues, concerning nurses, teachers and more, have been a frequent topic of conversations at meetings for several weeks. “Unfortunately, we have identified gaps in staffing, sometimes due to absenteeism, sometimes due to someone not yet being hired, etc. This essentially is a safety net. […] This is really about a support for when there is a gap.”
That gap appears to be when there may not be a nurse present for a school building, something district officials said repeatedly they want to avoid.
Verba said the agreement does not replace any staff members, and will be paid hourly for whatever work they’re called upon to do.
“Historically, there have been times when we’ve had to contract out services, especially with nurses, but not to the extent we do now,” said Human Resources and Labor Relations Director Robert Van Keuren. He said the staffing situation, for a variety of jobs, looks better than it did two months ago but that work is still necessary before school begins.