Charlottesville City Schools is planning to offer schools nurses a $5,000 stipend because of additional responsibilities that they have taken on during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said recently.
The announcement comes as Charlottesville and other school divisions are struggling to fill vacancies and seeking to keep current nurses on staff. Albemarle County said recently that it will offer nurses a $2,500 bonus.
“It’s an appreciation of the work that they’re doing,” said Beth Baptist, acting director of human resources and students services for the city school system, at a work session last week.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County are also offering a hiring bonus for school bus drivers because of a staffing shortage in that area.
The city school division has nine school nurses, and the floating nurse position is vacant, Baptist said. Charlottesville High School has been without a nurse for two weeks but that position has been filled.
The School Board will vote on the stipend at its next meeting Oct. 7. Federal stimulus funds will cover the cost of the stipend.
School nurses have been on the frontline during the pandemic, Baptist said. They work with students at school who come down with COVID-related symptoms, assist with contact tracing when there is a positive case and handle administrative duties related to positive cases. That’s on top of their day to day responsibilities in the building looking after all the other students.
Charlottesville is planning to start a COVID testing program, which could also require more work from the school nurses, Baptist said.
School nurses need a valid license to practice as a Licensed Practical Nurse, though the Registered Nurse license is preferred, according to the job description. A school nurse with no experience starts at $39,506 for a 10-month contract. Registered Nurses do receive a pay supplement, according to division documents.
Baptist said the position’s salary has been an issue in recruiting and retaining nurses because they can make more money in medical settings. Additionally, all positions except the CHS nurse are on a 10-month contract, so the salary is not as high as a year-around position.
The division adjusted the nurse salary in the current operating budget to better align with salaries in the area and reflect the nature of the job; however, the nurses are still not at market rate, Baptist noted.
Kim Powell, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said at the work session that the stipend will be paid out in two parts throughout the year. For nurses who join the division next month and beyond, the money will be prorated.
“It sends a clear message to the existing staff,” Powell said.