MARICOPA — When Merry Grace, a concerned parent, noticed essential position at Maricopa High School was vacant and recorded as “TBD,” she was quick to raise questions.
The vacant positions was director of health services at MHS. A document she found on the Maricopa Unified School District website noted that the positions were yet to be filled with the first day of school quickly approaching on July 22.
She then ran into multiple changes that will affect students in need of medical assistance.
“They need to ensure that they (students) self-carry inhalers and be responsible to not forget or lose them,” Grace said.
She said that she was given the typical form to fill out authorizing the school permission to administer medicine in the event of an emergency. However, when she turned the form in to the school, she was told that it is no longer valid.
Those medicines include ibuprofen, Tylenol and Albuterol. Staff will also not be able to administer EpiPens, which are used during allergic reactions.
“Parents are going to be in for a surprise once their kids who need medical assistance are met with these changes,” Grace said. “I have an asthmatic, so I asked them to clarify that they will not administer Albuterol in an emergency, and I was told (my son) has to self-carry with paperwork turned in.”
For those with severe asthma, carrying an inhaler can mean saving lives. Some parents expressed shock at the lack of medical professionals and medicine for times of emergency.
The district has confirmed that the standing order that allows MUSD health office staff to stock and administer medicine will expire on Aug. 1, according to Krista Roden, director of teaching and learning.
“The district is working to renew the standing orders to allow the health office to continue its current practice regarding the dispensing of medication,” Roden wrote. “In the event that the district is unable to renew the medical standing orders, the district’s practice regarding medication given by the health office staff may change.”
Roden confirmed that if a student’s prescription medication is properly contained and labeled, it will be administered by the medical assistant, RN or trained school staff and will continue unaffected by the standing order.
Students are able to self-carry EpiPens and prescribed inhalers with a form on file in the health office with their parent or legal guardian’s signature, according to Roden.
“If we are able to renew standing orders from a physician, we will continue to stock and administer Albuterol and EpiPens along with all other over-the-counter and prescription meds detailed in the standing order,” Roden said.
However, without the standing order, the school will call 911 in emergency cases if a parent has not provided an inhaler.
The issue was briefly discussed at the MUSD board meeting on Wednesday, when Patti Couture asked if the positions have been filled.
“Somebody is going to have to take the responsibility of overseeing that department,” Coutre said.
Tom Beckett, director of human resources for MUSD, assured the board members that the issue is being worked out.
“We are cautiously optimistic we are going to have everything in place for beginning of school,” Beckett said. “Our kids’ safety is going to be paramount. We are committed to that, and we believe our health offices are going to be prepared for kids.”
Yet, Grace wants all parents to understand her concerns with the changes.
“My concern as a parent of an asthmatic is this change was not formally announced — I had to find out at registration,” Grace said. “It is clear that they will not be able to stock Albuterol for emergencies and are depending on students to self-carry.
“My advice to parents is to make copies of the paperwork before turning it in and keep a copy of the self-carry form in the backpack as well as at home.”