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Magnolia Public Schools this week took another step toward becoming one of only four district’s in the state offering no cost, highly skilled physician and RN (Registered Nurse) analyses for its students.

Initially proposed in August 2016 after a donation from the Albermarle Foundation and further funded by district voters in the following year’s millage increase election, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital-affiliated telemedicine service is on track to become operational by Fall 2019. And although the school’s new medical hub will be located at Central Elementary School’s (CES) campus, its benefits will be available to every public school student in Magnolia. If, for instance, a child is thought to be sick at Easy Side Elementary or anther campus, and in need of the telemedicine service, he would be carried to CES’ by a school official.

The approval of the agreement came Monday when the local school board of education approved a contract with Arkansas Children’s Hospital for its telemedicine services. Schoolchildren receiving telemedicine guidance will also need a signed consent from by his or her parent or guardian, in order to use the electronic service.

With the new service, the on-site RN, if he or she needs additional medical advice, opinions, analysis, etc., will on a moment’s notice have the ability to electronically call on an Arkansas Children’s physician for an inquiry. The medical evaluations will be free for the students and the RN, with help from a Children’s pediatrician if needed, will be able to prescribe medication or recommend further attention to the child’s PCP (primary care provider).

“At the end of the [telemedicine] visit, we would make sure that the child’s PCP was aware of the examination and anything that we did or prescribed in making sure that the kid is connected or get reconnected with their PCP,” said Carla Sparks, rural outreach coordinator at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Monday as she addressed the Magnolia School Board.

The Arkansas State Legislature in summer 2017 passed a new telemedicine law that required all telemedicine providers to secure authorization of service from Medicaid PCPs and students. This week, the local school board needed to officially approve the contract with Arkansas Children’s. Contract terms were not verbally stated at Monday night’s school board meeting.

School telemedicine services require only that the school have the proper space for the machine, an internet connection, provide an RN, and have the ability to assist with child-parent consent forms for use of the electronic service. The telemedicine machine itself in 2016 was said to cost approximately $25,000 — which the Albemarle Foundation covered.

“Parents have to consent for their child to be seen by telemedicine,” added Sparks.

With the school possessing the new machine and once the CES facility becomes a government-approved (CLIA) clinical lab, the school nurse will also be able to perform flu, strep throat, and urinalyses testing, as well as regular medical exams for potentially ill students.

“Instead of having to send the kids home and schedule an appointment for their doctor,” said the Arkansas Children’s Hospital rep, “you can now get those tests done on campus and keep the kids in school.

Once the telemedicine and nursing station is built, as part of new construction at CES, only Dumas and Booneville school districts will posses comparable services. Benton public schools are also set to implement a similar service in the near future.

In a separate piece of business this week, the Magnolia School Board approved the purchase of two new Summit brand school buses for $78,880 per bus. One is a standard “route” bus and the other will be a handicapped-accessible bus.

“The best bus, in my opinion, is actually the lowest priced bus,” said Chris Hurley, director of support services for Magnolia Schools, referring to the Summit brand.

With 35 buses in the school district’s fleet, by purchasing two new buses per year, it assures that no bus on the road is older than 17 years. Magnolia buses also travel roughly 2,300 miles per day total throughout its expansive district.

“We’ve probably got 12 or 13 buses right now that have over 200,000 miles,” added Hurley.

Both new buses will be able to carry up to 71 passengers and feature a four-camera, onboard surveillance system to monitor inside and outside of the vehicle. By having the camera system, the school can, in theory, record license plate numbers and pursue legal action against driver’s who illegally pass the buses. The occurrence of such acts has become rampant, according to Hurley.

“Its an epidemic across the state, and we’ve had an epidemic here locally – especially in the last semester,” he said. “It was almost daily that we had people passing [the buses] when their lights were on.”

Most illegal passing occurs within the Magnolia city limits, according to school officials.

Arkansas code states: When a school bus stops and displays its flashing red lights, every driver coming from any direction must bring their vehicle or motorcycle to a complete stop before they reach the school bus. They must remain stopped until students have finished boarding or exiting the bus and the bus begins moving again.

Violation of school bus traffic laws can result in a combination of $250-$1,000 fine, up to 90 days in jail, suspension of one’s driver’s license for up to a year, and up to 400 hours of community service. If a fatality occurs during a bus law violation, criminal felony charges such as negligent homicide can also be applied, punishable by five to 20 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.

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