WELLSBURG, W.Va. — Brooke County Schools may become the first school district in the state to stock Narcan, a drug used to revive people who have overdosed from heroin; and the school board has cut travel for staff development to reflect a statewide cut in education.
On Monday the Brooke County Board of Education agreed to seek a waiver from the state Board of Education that would enable school nurses at the middle schools and high school to stock and administer naloxone, better known by its brand name, Narcan.
The move was made at the request of Carol Cipoletti, the school nurse at Brooke High School for 21 years, who said she and other school nurses in the county would be trained to administer the drug by injection if a student shows signs of a heroin overdose.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971, Narcan quickly blocks the effects of heroin and other opiates on the brain and restores breathing within a few minutes.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has reversed more than 26,000 overdoses since 1996.
Cipoletti, who was called for comment, said a rise in the area of deaths from heroin overdose led her to make the proposal and Dr. Pat Cipoletti, the school board’s medical advisor; and Bob Fowler, the county’s ambulance director; have supported it.
She said local ambulance crews are equipped with Narcan, but it can take 5 to 10 minutes for them to arrive, and a student who has overdosed could die before they get there.
Cipoletti said the drug also is available in nasal sprays, but it doesn’t act as quickly in that form.
She acknowledged individuals revived with Narcan often respond in an agitated or aggressive manner but said the school nurses would be trained to handle that.
Cipoletti said Fowler has agreed to supply Narcan, “probably just enough for a dose,” to the middle schools and high schools if the state Board of Education gives its OK.
She said if that occurs, Brooke County Schools would be the first county school district in West Virginia to have Narcan and that could lead to it being stocked by schools statewide.
Use of the drug has been approved for schools in New York, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Cipoletti said the county also was the first to stock EpiPens, which may be used to administer epinephrine to students suffering a severe reaction to an allergen, such as peanuts.
But while those may be used by trained teachers, only nurses would be permitted to administer the Narcan, she said.
In other business, Superintendent Toni Shute said to address a 1 percent, or $180,529 cut, in state funding, plans have been made to cut travel for staff furthering their training by $55,000 and delay some building improvements.
“Unfortunately, facilities and maintenance will feel the effects of this reduction more than any other department. Projects within our existing schools will be prioritized and some may need to be postponed until next year,” she said.
“As always, safety will continue to be our main concern. We will have to draw from our contingency fund if necessary,” Shute continued.
She noted construction of the new middle school won’t be affected as it’s funded by a $15 million bond issue and $15 million from the state School Building Authority.
Shute said travel requests for staff development will be determined case by case, adding some training is unavoidable. For example, the board approved travel expenses for three teachers to receive training allowing them to teach advanced placement courses in social studies and history.
Shute noted the state Department of Education is among state agencies whose budgets have been cut by 4 percent by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who cited a drop in revenue from coal and natural gas.
In other business, the board approved the hiring of Marjorie Boyd as a biology teacher at the high school, Geraldine Bado as a special education aide at Jefferson Primary School and Stephen Pepe Jr. and Barbara Jones as countywide custodians.
It also accepted the resignation of Judy Ennis, a special education teacher at Wellsburg Primary School who is retiring after Dec. 1.
Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz was asked if there are any other staff to be hired for the current school year. He said the school district will seek several substitute positions, including teachers, of which there’s a shortage; aides, custodians and bus drivers.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])