Education

Ocean Springs won't have RNs in schools next year

Ocean Springs has changed directions in how it will handle staff nurses on campus next year. 
 (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
Ocean Springs has changed directions in how it will handle staff nurses on campus next year. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Citing lack of funding, the Ocean Springs School District did not renew contracts for its six nurses earlier this week.

Instead, the school district entered into a contract for next year with Singing River Health System, an outside health care provider. The contract will save the school district $23,504, superintendent Bonita Coleman-Potter said.

She said more cuts could be necessary in the school district, but didn't say where.

"This is the tangible side of (state) education cuts," she said. "It's hurtful. It's never something you want to do, but we had little choice.

"As we budget for this year, we're going to be looking at other areas also."

Funding for the school district, according to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula, was short more than $2 million for the school year that will begin in August. Stretching back eight years, the district has been underfunded more than $20 million. The MAEP formula would provide "adequate" funding for education.

The six RNs will be replaced by six LPNs and a floating nurse practitioner. These staffers will have the ability to administer medicine and perform other necessary medical services, she said.

The school district's budget for the nurses was $361,620. Coleman-Potter said the district covered the cost in previous years with a state grant, which expired two years ago.

The contract with Singing River is for $338,116 for the year.

She said without ad valorum taxes coming from casinos or major industry in the Ocean Springs area, the district has the highest millage rate allowed by law. It cannot raise property taxes any higher. That has left few options for funding, she said.

"This is the most difficult decision I've had to make," she said. "This wasn't done in a cavalier fashion. This is the most difficult decision I've had to make."

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