If Denver Public School teachers vote to strike, school nurses may follow suit

Nurses covered by teacher contract
Posted at 2:18 AM, Jan 21, 2019

DENVER — The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will resume its strike vote on Tuesday. But teachers aren't the only ones who may decide to strike.

Nurses with DPS are covered by the teachers contract. If teachers vote to strike, the nurses may follow suit.

The teacher's union has been trying to negotiate a new pay structure with DPS, but the two sides are still more than $8 million apart. One of the major sticking points is bonus money. The district said it wants to continue paying teachers, who work in hard to place schools, more money. The union said it wants those financial resources spread out, to build up the base pay for every teacher.

Ellen Kelty, director of Student Equity and Opportunity, the department that oversees Nursing and Student Health Services, said each nurse will have the option to strike or not strike.

"They're all going to have to make that decision for themselves," she said. "If they do choose to strike, we will work to make sure student health needs, in all our buildings, are covered."

Kelty said DPS is looking at bringing in other nurses to help cover those who make go on strike.

She said they will do their best to find nurses to cover any empty spots and have delegation plans if they can't find a nurse for every building at all times.

She said that not every school is currently staffed with a nurse five days a week — some have one just once or twice a week.

Jason Casey, a parent of twin boys in kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School, said nurses play an important role.

"My boys have had to see the nurse three or four times this year," he said. "They get a stomach ache at lunch. They fall on the playground. A kid pushes them into a rock."

Casey said he won't mind if the district places temporary substitute nurses in schools, but he doesn't feel the same way about substitute teachers.

"I don't think a substitute teacher can just step in the role of a teacher and just educate them the way I want them to be educated," he said.

Batya Stepelman said she feels the same way.

"I have a small business, but that is going to have to close down if the teachers do strike," she said. "But with that said, I am 100 percent in support of DCTA and teachers in Denver having a living wage."

Stepelman, whose children are in the first and third grades at Teller Elementary School, said she worries that the situation could turn into "Lord of the Flies," meaning some kids could get out of control without their regular teachers in the classroom.

"I'm not super comfortable sending my kids into a classroom where there is a skeletal staff," he said.

Tuesday's voting will take place from 4-9 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 1555 Grant St.

Results are expected late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

If the vote is to strike, it will be Denver's first teacher's strike since October of 1994.