NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The pandemic has created a shortage of nurses across the country and here in New York.
That’s having a ripple effect on students with severe disabilities who require full-time assistance, and it’s putting their education at risk.READ MORE: Parents Of Immunocompromised Girl Say Long Island School District Refused Requests For Adequate Remote Option
Manhattan high schooler Owen Atkins loves school, but he’s prone to seizures, so he needs a nurse with him in class each day.
“It’s legally required if you’re in school, to do medications, it has to be done by a nurse,” Owen’s father, Dan Atkins, said.
The problem is the pandemic has created a shortage of nurses and the Department of Education cannot find enough for students like Owen.
“They basically have just said, it’s hard, we don’t have nurses,” Owen’s mother, Kim Madden, said.
So in order for Owen to go to school, his mom or dad, who both work full time, have to stay with him in class each day.
“I’m working four days, so I’ve had to cut back my job,” Atkins said.
Owen’s not alone in this.
Thirteen-year-old Greta Baier has had a nurse with her every year since preschool, except this year.
“I’m very dependent on my nurse,” Greta said.READ MORE: ‘I Want A Proper Education’: Some NYC Public School Students With Medical Exemptions From In-Person Instruction Feel They’re Falling Behind
“She’ll need cough assist or toileting or she has a G tube to get a feed,” Greta’s mother, Lyn Baier, said.
Baier now has to work remotely from the school hallway.
“Greta deserves to go to school. I deserve to be able to work,” she said.
Both families who spoke to CBS2’s Ali Bauman acknowledge they have the privilege of flexible work schedules and many other families in the city do not.
“The DOE is legally obligated to provide that nurse so that they can attend school,” said Rebecca Shore, director of litigation with the organization Advocates for Children. “This year, we’re hearing on a daily basis of two or three students each day who are not able to attend school because they don’t have a nurse assigned.”
The DOE says it’s “working closely with our contract agencies to identify nurses to support students.”
“We’ve not heard anything from the DOE. I mean, it’s been now almost three full weeks, so, you know, how long can this go on?” Baier said.
These kids need a nurse for an education, but they also need them for growth socially.
“Having a nurse, it makes me feel more independent,” Greta said.MORE NEWS: Teacher Stephanie Edmonds On Why She’s Not Getting The COVID Vaccine, Despite Mandate: ‘The Hardest Decision I’ve Ever Made’
“He’s really at risk of being extremely isolated, and school is his world, and I feel like it’s important for people to recognize that children with disabilities are even more isolated now than they were before and they were isolated to begin with,” Atkins said.