Health Department to continue providing services to schools during summer

Future of program remains uncertain

June 25, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The Washington County Health Department is expected to continue to provide health services for Washington County Public Schools for the remainder of the summer school session, but an unknown number of health department employees are expected to be laid off when the new fiscal year starts July 1, officials said Monday.

Who will provide school health services during the new school year also remains in limbo.

If someone other than the health department ends up providing the school year services, the resulting layoffs could have a ripple effect throughout the health department and other state agencies because some year-round health department employees have “bumping” privileges, health department spokesman Rod MacRae said.

Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said he and County Health Officer Earl Stoner on Friday reached an agreement in principle for the health department to continue providing health services for summer school.

MacRae said he didn’t believe the agreement has been formally executed. Health department officials were determining how the summer positions would be staffed.

Wilcox said in an email to The Herald-Mail that school system policy allows him to award a contract in excess of $50,000, provided he takes it to the board of education’s next meeting. The board next meets July 17.

Wilcox said he talked to board members about the agreement and received no negative feedback.

The health department issued layoff notices to 76 employees in the school health services program after the Washington County Commissioners voted June 5 to cut $3.3 million from its budget for school health services.

The county had been paying the health department to provide health services to local public schools. The commissioners cut the school health services funding to free money for teacher pension costs the state is passing along to local jurisdictions.

The school system will take on the cost of school health services, but rather than automatically renew the previous arrangement with the health department, Wilcox has said he wants to review how health services are being provided in schools.

Wilcox has said he has been talking to Meritus Health President Joseph Ross about how that health system would provide school health services.

State law requires the school system and health department to work together in developing a plan for school health services, but does not require that the health department provide those services.

Wilcox said Monday he will continue to talk to health department and Meritus officials about the matter.

Not all of the registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants who work in the schools provide health services during summer school because not every school hosts a summer school program, MacRae said.

The health department issued layoff notices, effective June 30, to its contractual employees, MacRae said.

MacRae did not know how many of the health department’s contractual employees will be laid off June 30.

Their contracts run from July 1 to June 30, and with the funding cut, their contracts cannot be renewed, MacRae said.

It’s possible some of the contractual employees could be hired to work in summer schools, he said.

Year-round health department employees who provide school health services received 60-day layoff notices, MacRae said. Those notices were sent out June 7, 8 and 9.

The health department has 26 contractual and 46 year-round employees in the school health services program, MacRae said. It was unclear why those figures, which total 72 employees, did not match the number of layoff notices, 76, a health department official said were issued earlier this month.

MacRae said three workers were being shifted to other positions.

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