THE PHILADELPHIA School District is scrapping a plan to offer private health services in schools, officials announced yesterday.

The district issued a request for proposals in May to expand health services and explore different delivery models. Six entities responded, but the district decided that the plans were not feasible.

"Cost wasn't necessarily a factor; I think the feasibility of implementing the proposals was the greater factor," said Karyn Lynch, chief of student support services. "Each had something about it that made it a challenge to implement at this time, which is not to say that the proposers didn't think hard or didn't respond to our request in a very professional and well-considered way."

The district has about 180 full-time school nurses responsible for 218 district schools and 95 parochial and private schools, leaving many schools with little to no coverage.

Yet it already is reeling from a decision to outsource management of substitute teachers to Source4Teachers, which hasn't come close to meeting the 75 percent fill rate it promised for the start of school.

The move to pursue offers for health services drew criticism from both the union representing school nurses and politicians, who raised concerns about the quality of private services and the possible displacement of certified nurses.

City Council President Darrell Clarke and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan said yesterday that the district made the right decision.

"Superintendent [William] Hite's announcement today demonstrates that members of the public who care passionately about our schools are being heard by administrators. I commend the district for its responsiveness and flexibility on a matter of great concern to myself and many of my constituents," Clarke said in a statement.

"We all agree that every school should have a full-time nurse to ensure the safety and well-being of our kids, but I continue to doubt that privatization or outsourcing of district personnel is an appropriate alternative."

Jordan said he hopes the district now will move to restore the 100 nurses laid off four years ago and fill current vacancies.

"Philadelphia's children, many of whom are medically fragile, need to have the services of a certified school nurse," he said.

The proposals included plans to place nurses in schools, as well as creating health centers, Lynch said. The projected costs ranged from "very, very little, if nothing, to a sizable amount," she said.

One proposal called for a behavioral-health component to be reimbursed by the city, but city officials said the cost was too great, according to Lynch.

The district said it received input from the city's Health Department, Community Behavioral Health, certified school nurses, Drexel's School of Nursing, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, along with school-based leadership and parents.

"It was a series of things that we learned along the way that just made it at this time something that we could not move forward with," Lynch added.

"I think the good news is that we learned a lot through the process, and so that prepares us better for what we're going to do in the future."

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