Nurses' hours pique Region 12 feelings
Threats of lawsuits and allegations of coercion highlighted Region 12's Board of Education meeting Monday.
The hot topic of the evening was a proposed cut in hours for school nurses at two of the region's schools -- Burnham School in Bridgewater and Booth Free School in Roxbury.
Superintendent of Schools Pat Cosentino proposed reducing nurses' hours at the two elementary school to four hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost savings annually would be $41,300.
Some parents shared their outrage during the public comment section of the meeting.
Burnham PTO president Erin Elovecky said the parents of her school have "huge concerns."
Burnham parent Nancy Hawley told the board the proposed cut would be "irresponsible."
And fellow Burnham parent Dirk Feather threatened a lawsuit.
"If my son gets hurt at school without a nurse on duty, I'm the parent who will sue," Feather told the board.
Board member Kelly Lott of Roxbury accused the schools administration of sending a message with the proposed cut that she and her constituents do not like.
"There's a message being relayed ," Lott said, "that these schools will have services slowly cut away so, in two or four years, the towns will capitulate and close the elementary schools and go with consolidation."
A referendum vote in spring 2014 to close the three elementary schools and build a new consolidated elementary school on the Shepaug campus was defeated.
Board member Valerie Andersen of Washington defended the administration.
She said a "lot of effort was put in" to being fair about the nurses during budget development.
Cosentino gave assurances no coercion had been intended. Staffing cuts will be necessary, she said, as the years progress if student enrollment doesn't increase.
After discussion, the nurses' hours were restored by a 10-1 vote, with one abstention.
Budget talks will continue Tuesday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Shepaug Valley School library.
After Monday's board meeting, the proposed budget stood at $21.4 million, a reduction of $205,100 from the current fiscal year.