Teachers in Denver will continue voting Tuesday on a possible strike, and it's possible that school nurses in the district could join them.
Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association failed to reach a deal last Friday.
Among the sticking points are base salaries. DPS is offering $26.5 million in raises – something Superintendent Susana Cordova said averages out to around 10 percent per teacher. But the union is asking for an additional $8 million – which they say is just 1 percent of the district’s budget.
Teachers began voting on a possible strike on Saturday and will continue through Tuesday.
There are about 100 school nurses in the school district, and they work under the same contract as the teachers.
Ellen Kelty, the director of Student Equity and Opportunity who also manages nursing and student health for the district, said some schools are staffed with a nurse five days a week.
Other schools may have a nurse on staff one day or a few days per week.
“On Saturday, I saw a bunch of nurses go in to vote so we are actively participating in the strike vote,” said Sean McFarland, a Denver school nurse and representative for nurses in the union. "Our concerns are just ... who is going to be watching out for our students?”
McFarland said the school nurses do more than help when a student gets sick - they administer medicine to students with prescriptions, respond to emergencies and handle other issues.
Nurses also work with school delegates who are approved and trained to administer medicine or help with other tasks.
DPS said delegates are often secretaries, office support staff or other staff members in the building.
“If we go on strike, then we are not going to be available to the people we delegate to as we normally are," McFarland said. "Typically if they have a question and we're not in the building that day, they can call us and ask us questions or [let us know] if there’s a problem with medications."
“Due to that, many nurses are considering pulling their delegation while they go on strike, so the people who are in the buildings while we’re not there won’t be able to do those tasks anymore because we’re not going to be immediately available to them," McFarland continued.
DPS is already recruiting substitute teachers in case there is a strike.
Kelty said the district also plans to bring on more nurses to help. She said DPS will reach out to contract agencies the district has worked with before and move people in the central office with a nursing license out into the schools.
Kelty said the district wants to make sure that even if teachers strike, students can attend school.
Kelty said normally there are two trained delegates working in each school assisting nursing staff. If teachers vote to strike, she said the district still hopes to have the same number of delegates available in each school.
DPS is asking parents to be sure their students’ medical information and emergency contact information is up to date.