By Laura Jackson & Debra Keelen
Communication between school staff and parents of children with food allergies will be especially crucial for the coming school year because Fayette County schools will decrease the number of school nurses because of reduced federal funding.
Previously, the county health department supplied approximately 30 nurses to schools.
The program now will operate with 13 RNs and 14 licensed practical nurses for the 2013-2014 school year.
Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said the plan is to supplement the nurses, where needed, by contracting with other health care providers or bringing in additional help from the health department.
Parents rely on school nurses to coordinate emergency plans to be used when a student has an allergic reaction at school.
This includes training teachers, paraeducators, administrators, front office staff, bus drivers, coaches, cafeteria staff and other school personnel to administer an epinephrine injection in the event of an anaphylactic reaction.
Parents of children with food allergies will need to work more closely with schools this year to be sure they are comfortable with the number of staff members trained by nurses at their child’s school.
The best way for parents to proceed is to develop a formal 504 Plan.
This plan is a legal document developed by the parents and the school system in which the specific needs of the individual student are documented and a plan of action is devised.
Parents start this process by contacting the guidance counselor at their child’s school, requesting a 504 Plan. This process should be started as early as possible.
Good communication is essential when dealing with a life-threatening food allergy.
It is important to contact the child’s teachers before the start of the school year, explaining the situation and the emergency plan.
Ideally, the best option is to schedule a meeting with teachers and administrators before school starts so that everything is guaranteed to be in place by the first day of school.
Parenting children with severe food allergies can be challenging, and it is often helpful to network with other parents in similar situations.
The Central Kentucky support group, Kentucky Families with Food Allergies, provides networking and education through regular support group meetings.
The next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Lexington Public Library’s Beaumont Branch, 3080 Fieldstone Way.