The FASN encourages school nurses across Florida to reach out to Superintendents and School Board members to find out how their district plans to use the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funding that is being provided by the federal government. According to the DOE, this is intended to “fund health and safety measures consistent with CDC guidance, address the disruptions to teaching and learning resulting from the pandemic—especially for students hardest hit by the pandemic—and get students back in the classroom quickly and safely.” Some of the health and safety measures described in the detailed information released by the DOE include:
- Investing in resources to implement CDC's K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff, and students safe (improving ventilation; purchasing PPE; and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms).
- Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff, and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
- Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.
- Funding crucial summer, after school, and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
- Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep schools safe and healthy.
Florida’s funding allocation for ARP ESSER is $7,038,317,154.
The following are recommendations for talking points from NASN on this issue:
- We all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has impeded the learning of students and undermined their physical and mental health.
- Prior to and during the pandemic, our schools were already woefully understaffed with regard to nurses and other support personnel. School nurses have a critical role in ensuring that schools effectively address issues related to the health and well-being of children, including the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on youth.
- The ARP provides funds to continue safe in-person instruction and sustain operations, and school districts can use the funds in a variety of ways, including hiring more school nurses.
- On behalf of the students in our district, I/we respectfully request that this infusion of federal funding be invested in ways that will most effectively achieve the goals of safer classrooms and schools, improved student physical and mental health, and academic readiness.
- Among the investments that I/we believe will achieve this goal are: (Here’s where you insert your ask! – some examples – improve staffing levels in our district by hiring more registered professional school nurses, especially at secondary level; describe your current staffing shortcomings and why this urgently needs to be improved; share a short story describing the impact that you have made this year and make the connection to the need for additional school nursing support; use data to tell your story/make your impact)
UPDATE: On May 13, 2021, the Biden administration announced that it will invest an additional $7.4 billion to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges, including dedicated funding of at least $500 million to hire school nurses. This funding is above and beyond the $122 billion discussed above, and it provides substantial additional federal funding to increase the number of nurses in schools across the country. (email from Piper Largent May 24, 2021)
Please use this information to help inform your conversations with decision-makers in your district so this support for health services funding does not pass you by!