Ascension Seton provides additional $1.8 M investment in student health services for current school year
Ascension Seton and Austin Independent School District have formed a new initiative to seek greater parental input to help guide the future direction of its student health services and to respond to parents’ concerns about the current year’s services.
The initiative includes a parental advisory group which will provide informed feedback to the AISD Board of Trustees and Superintendent about long-term student health services plans. Ascension Seton will also provide an increased investment of up to $1.8 million in student health services for the current school year, which will go toward adding more registered nurses (RNs) to schools.
“We’ve heard parents’ concerns and we value their input,” said Kristi Henderson, DNP, CFNP, who leads the AISD student health services program at Ascension Seton, along with Medical Director Mark Shen, MD. “We also know that RNs are a trusted source for parents. We aim to bring in more of these trusted experts into schools so they, along with parents, will help develop a long-term, sustainable plan to help care for Austin’s children,” she said.
The additional $1.8 million contribution of in-kind health services adds to the $1.7 million of in-kind services Ascension Seton is already providing. These additional investments add to the $7.1 million budgeted amount approved by the Austin ISD School Board for student health services provided by Ascension Seton this school year, which includes staffing RNs, School Health Assistants and School Based Mental Health Services on campuses.
“The health and safety of students is of utmost importance to Austin ISD, and we are proud to continue to work successfully with our Ascension Seton partners and parents to arrive at a sustainable solution to help care for our children’s well-being,” said Paul Cruz, PhD, Superintendent of Austin ISD, which serves over 83,000 students annually.
A carefully targeted plan
The school health delivery model includes full-time RN coverage in each of AISD’s larger elementary and middle schools. Medium-sized elementary and middle schools will share responsibilities between one RN and one health assistant, while smaller schools will have full-time health assistants in each school plus a shared RN. A float pool of RNs and health assistants will be added to augment this model and provide additional resources to support the needs of the health team. As in past years, all high schools will continue to have full-time RN coverage.
In total, Ascension Seton is absorbing the expense of adding almost 33 more RNs across elementary, middle and high schools compared to the previous staffing structure.
The staffing changes have already begun. However, the process of hiring new nurses is likely to continue to for the next few months, says Henderson.
Engaging parents to help guide future health services plans
AISD’s School Health Advisory Council’s Health Services Subcommittee will serve as the parental advisory group charged with building the future plan for AISD health services. Ascension Seton will be a part of this subcommittee, along with parents and selected experts from outside AISD and Seton.
For more information on the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) or to complete an application to be considered for participation on the sub-committee, please visit https://www.austinisd.org/advisory-bodies/shac.
More than two decades of continued partnership
Ascension Seton has partnered with Austin ISD for more than 22 years to provide student health services to Austin’s schools.
Every year, Ascension Seton also provides an additional amount of in-kind health services beyond Austin ISD’s annual budget to provide services such as:
- Children’s Health Express Van (primary care for uninsured and underinsured children)
- Sports physicals
- Internships for the Ann Richards School for Girls
This school year, these additional services add up to about $700,000 in additional care for the community.