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High school health centers close so other schools can have nurses

High school health centers close so other schools can have nurses »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene 4J School District is adding more school nurses this fall to treat sick kids.

But to do that, health centers at the high schools will have to shut down.

They've been a health care tradition at the high schools, but district administrators say the time has come to close the clinics.

They say money is just one of the reasons.
"The school nurse part of me is very happy for all the school nurses," says Debbie Johnson of the health center at North Eugene High School.

New nurses will be hired this summer by the Eugene district, seven in all.

They come at a price. 

Long-standing student health centers at the Eugene 4J high schools - Churchill, Sheldon, North and South - will come to an end by June.

The district says federal grants are drying up and the nearly $800,000 annual tab for the clinics is too much.

The trade off is to keep one nurse apiece at the high schools and assign the 7 new nurses to the middle and elementary schools.  

Cheryl Linder of 4J Support Services says one nurse right now for every 2,500 kids doesn't cut it.

"By reallocating those funds and increasing our nursing services, we can lower that ratio to one to 1,400 kids," she told KVAL News.

The flip side to the plan is that the four school-based health centers will have to close up shop, including the first one at North Eugene High School.

Since 1986, the North health center has been helping students.  For Nurse Practitioner Carol Matney, it's bittersweet.  She'll be out of a job.

"If I think about it, I feel a great sense of loss.  I can cry.  I feel that we save lives and that this would be a drastic situation if we took it away," explains Matney.

However, Linder explains to save $100,000 a year and get more nurses on the campuses, it's a step they must take.

Officials hope a community health group will step forward to keep one of the centers open part time.

Debbie Johnson hopes it can be the clinic at North High, "And we're hoping and praying that somebody will because these kids are still there. Those numbers are growing and we want to continue serving them."

The new hires would raise the Eugene schools nursing staff from 4 to 11, but nurse practitioners and mental health specialists will be gone.