PLAQUEMINE — Assistant District Attorney Scott Stassi told the Iberville Parish School Board on Monday night it should consider voting next month whether to dissolve its agreement with the nonprofit health clinic operating in two schools on the east bank of Iberville Parish.
Stassi is asking board members to entertain the vote at its next regular meeting in April while he continues to negotiate with officials from the St. Gabriel Health Clinic about the school system’s memorandum of understanding, which was recently called into question by several board members.
The St. Gabriel Health Clinic has been helping serve the health care needs of East Iberville’s underprivileged residents for more than 20 years. It expanded its services to the school system about 10 years ago through the partnership with the school district.
The School Board last month asked the administration to iron out the wrinkles in its current memorandum of understanding with the St. Gabriel Health Clinic after board members received several complaints from parents about students being pulled from classes by clinic nurses for medical exams, billing parents’ insurance companies without proper consent prior to treatment and attempting to treat students without parental consent forms on file.
Victor Kirk, chief executive officer of the health clinics operating at East Iberville and the Math, Science and Arts Academy-East campus, recently fired back that the complaints by parents have no merit and that the school system in the past hasn’t been eager to work out issues the clinic has wanted to address.
The school district’s current memorandum of understanding with the health clinic, signed in 2009, is a one-page document binding the district to provide free space on its two campuses in East Iberville and to maintain the clinics’ infrastructure needs.
In return, St. Gabriel Health Clinic has to provide a physician or nurse practitioner to serve student health care needs and work in collaboration with school staff.
But in light of the concerns from parents, the school district is asking St. Gabriel Health to obtain annual parental consent forms and provide a copy of them to the administration no later than Sept. 1.
Other proposed changes to the agreement with the nonprofit clinic include health clinic representatives and school administrators devising a treatment schedule that doesn’t interrupt students’ instructional time. It also would require the clinic to notify parents about all health-related issues with students. The clinic would further be mandated to check immunization records for all students, perform vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings and provide proof that the clinic’s employees are trained to perform all noncomplex health procedures.
Stassi, who was asked to step in as legal representative for the school system due to a possible conflict of interest between the board’s regular attorney and the clinic, said he met last week with Kirk and an attorney for the St. Gabriel Health Clinic.
Stassi said he informed Kirk and his attorney that the School Board’s request that students not be pulled from core classes and for a revamped parental consent form are non-negotiable.
“Students take seven hours each day with four dedicated to core classes,” Stassi said. “If it’s not an emergency, we told them any medical visits need to be done during P.E. or a student’s elective class.”
Stassi made no indication about how the St. Gabriel Health Clinic responded but said the board voting next month about whether it wants to enact the 60-day termination clause would at least give the School Board time to place a school nurse at the two schools should talks between both sides fall flat.
“If we don’t come to an agreement within that 60 days, you’ve covered yourself with placing a school nurse there,” he said. “I think we should put ourselves in a position where we are in control of what happens at schools.”
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