RRPS addresses bus driver shortage, more

Rio Rancho Public Schools main office.
(File photo/ Rio Rancho Observer)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Rio Rancho Public Schools’ struggles with state unfunded mandates resumed last Monday, when school board members, except for absent Wynne Coleman, heard details from Student Services Executive Director Tonna Burgos on what needs to be done in 2020 with diabetic students.

Whether or not the student is qualified to self-administer the required dosage of insulin — not by injection — a qualified nurse must be on hand. That’s where the requirements impact the budget.

But, in good news, perhaps the need for school bus drivers will be met soon after the announcement by Chief Operating Officer Mike Baker that the starting salary will increase to $16 an hour, up from $13.52 hourly and only a dollar less than Albuquerque Public Schools drivers make.

At the previous board meeting, John Francis, executive director of transportation, told the board the district was losing drivers to APS and the City of Albuquerque, which paid substantially more. The new competitive wage includes benefits, hopefully making the job more lucrative and solving the problem of the driver shortage, which has wreaked havoc on some students’ arrival times at school.

More on medical cannabis

With Policy 1029, which includes provisions for medical cannabis to be made available to affected students, the board was content to expand the definition of who may administer the substance to approved students. Currently, one student needing medical cannabis is enrolled.

With one change, “a parent, guardian or other person designated by a certifying practitioner as taking responsibility for managing the well-being of a qualified student authorized as a qualified patient” can give a student medical cannabis.

The other change dictates that the parent, guardian or other person will bring the cannabis to the campus and administer it. There will be no need for safe storage on a campus, relieving the district of one possible liability. But board members were still concerned about this literal violation of federal law, inasmuch as cannabis (with THC) is a controlled substance.

“We’re still in the position of disobeying a federal law,” board President Catherine Cullen said. “What happens if we don’t pass the policy?”

Superintendent Sue Cleveland said she couldn’t remember another time when the PED ordered districts to violate federal law. She surmised the issue would end up being laid at the feet of the PED and legislature.

Regarding diabetic students

Policy 1029 also deals with diabetic students, regardless if they’re classified as having Type 1 or Type 2, and not differentiating if diabetic students can self-administer or need insulin injected.

According to diabetes.org, in Type 1, the body does not produce insulin, which is a hormone the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for energy. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, people with Type 1 diabetes can manage their condition and live long, healthy lives, according to the website.

Type 2 diabetes means the body doesn’t use insulin properly. While some people can control their blood-sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others need medication or insulin, according to the website.

According to RRPS, 51 Type-1 diabetic students and four Type-2 diabetic students are enrolled.

According to the policy, at the school where a student with diabetes is enrolled, “diabetes supervisory personnel” shall be available to provide care during regular school hours, during all school-sponsored activities and trips, and on buses where the driver has not been trained in diabetes care.

School nurses meet the requirements during the school day, but when field trips or extracurricular activities are in the students’ itinerary, extra expense comes in — to the tune of an estimated $10,000, RRPS Chief Operating Officer Mike Baker said, after already budgeting $20,000.

The new state law takes effect Jan. 1, and school officials are scrambling to come up with the qualified medical personnel. The policy defines “diabetes supervisory personnel” as a school employee trained to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and who understands actions to take in diabetes-related emergencies.

A school isn’t allowed to require or pressure parents or guardians to provide diabetes care for a student at school or school-related activities. Upon the written request of a parent or guardian and authorization by the student’s diabetes medical management plan, students with diabetes shall be permitted to attend to the care of their diabetes themselves anywhere at school, under the policy.

Students with diabetes can have on their person at all times all necessary supplies to perform these functions, according to the policy. If the parent or student requests, the student shall have access to a private area for performing diabetes care.

But if a student must receive medication on a school-sponsored field trip, the parent or guardian must notify the school nurse and teacher, and the three will develop a health management plan.

According to the policy, RRPS must provide annual training on the medical administration policy and procedures to all school nurses, at least two diabetes care employees, at least two diabetes supervisory employees at each school attended by a student with diabetes and bus drivers as required by law.

The board heard how one field trip was postponed, but nobody was available on that date to accompany a diabetic student — and the field trip was canceled.

“My concern is when we don’t fill that void that one time,” said board member Ryan Parra, who helps his father with his diabetes regimen. “Liability is concerning to me.”

Other business

In other matters Monday, the board:

• Approved the expenditure of $358,900 for furniture from Back TOI for the new Shining Stars Preschool under construction;

• OK’d using a handful of vendors for various parts and maintenance for buses;

• Approved the schedule for reports from various departments and schools at future board meetings;

• Did the first reading for the bullying prevention policy (Policy 1010), said to be “thorough”; and

• OK’d legislative priorities for the 30-day session in 2020.

The board’s next meeting, followed by a workshop, is set for Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m.

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