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Austin ISD responds to parent feedback with nurse staffing boost

The Austin Independent School District says revamping its student health program after previously announcing the use of 'virtual care' at school clinics. (CBS Austin)

The Austin Independent School District says it's revamping its student health program after previously announcing the use of 'virtual care' at school clinics.

Austin ISD says it's receiving a $1.8 million investment from Seton Healthcare to be able to put a registered nurse or health assistant in each school.

Austin ISD says it's in response to parents' concerns about this school year's services.

Parent Kelly Tarun said her elementary school son suffers from a severe peanut allergy. "He's had anaphylactic before, he's had to go to the ER," she said.

When she learned some AISD campuses wouldn't have registered nurses and virtual care was to be implemented at some schools, she helped start a parent group to fight back against the change to bring more nurses on campus.

"As a parent, we want to be able to send our kids to school and not worry about their safety," said Tarun.

Late last month, Austin ISD announced that, in partnership with Seton, the district would use 'virtual care' at school clinics. The idea was to use video chat at smaller schools instead of having a nurse on staff. Registered nurses would have still been on hand at large campuses.

"We've heard parents' concerns and we value their input," said Kristi Henderson, DNP, CFNP, in a press release, who leads the AISD student health services program at Seton, along with Medical Director Mark Shen, MD. "We also know that RNs are a trusted source for parents. We aim to bring in more of these trusted experts into schools so they, along with parents, will help develop a long-term, sustainable plan to help care for Austin's children," she said.

Austin ISD says Seton is absorbing the expense of adding the almost 33 more registered nurses. It should take a few months to complete the hiring process.

The district is also forming a parental advisory group to provide feedback to the Board of Trustees and Superintendent about long-term student health services plans.

With parent consent, Henderson said virtual care is still at Mccallum HS, East Side Memorial HS, and Crockett HS.

Tarun said Wednesday's decision was a win for parents like her but there's still room for improvement.

"We still would like to continue that conversation for full time nurses on every campus," she said.

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