WCPSS fighting 'astonishing' nurse-to-student ratio

Elaina Athans Image
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

CARY, NC (WTVD) -- The Wake County School Board is trying to find a solution for both its nursing and counselor shortages.

The latest statistics show there is one nurse per 1,725 students. That's greater than the state and national averages.

Most nurses in Wake County will visit at least two schools a day.

Cole Nowicki, who is a fifth-grader at Middle Creek Elementary School in Apex, told ABC11 he's not even sure who his nurse is or where the office is located inside the facility.

When asked what he does if he becomes sick, he said, "I ask my teacher if I can call my mom."

His mom said she'll usually hear from teachers in those cases.

"Normally, what the procedure is, if they're not feeling well their teacher will personally email me or text," said Christine Nowicki. "The numbers prove that there should be someone there on staff for these children."

A Wake County official said there has been a real concerted effort to change the ratio.

Extra staff has been brought in for the last four years. The hires, though, are barely helping the growing needs of the state's largest school district.

The population keeps expanding and new schools are being built every year. There is a shortage of not only nurses but also counselors. Both issues were addressed at a Monday meeting.

"The gaps are astonishing and we know that our children have needs," said Wake County School Board Chair Monika Johnson-Hostler.

Officials expressed they want one nurse for every school, but that's unlikely to happen.

"For us, we're not going to be able to close that gap. There's not enough funding, not enough time," said Johnson-Hostler.

The Board is working on a plan to determining what schools have the greatest needs. Those selected schools will be receiving additional resources.

"We' re faced with making difficult decisions and the way that we can best, I think most of us can sleep at night, is to say where do our need lie, who are we deciding these needs and then trying to close those gaps," Johnson-Hostler said.