SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock School District personnel are seemingly unanimous in their recommendation that the district stop distributing fluoride tablets to elementary students.
The teachers’ union opposes the practice. The district superintendent does too.
Monday night, the district’s two elementary school nurses weighed in on the issue at the board meeting at the Slippery Rock Middle School. Both Wilma Oman and Ann Lanschak, nurses from Slippery Rock and Moraine elementary schools, respectively, said if they passed out the fluoride tablets to students, that work would be too time consuming.
They estimated it would take five hours for each nurse each day.
“That would be five hours the health room is closed down,” said Lanschak.
The nurses based their estimation on 12 minutes per classroom, the length of time to administer the tablets, which require students to chew and swish in their mouths, they said.
“It seems impossible to do this properly,” Lanschak said.
The program was designed by the state Department of Health as a classroom program, not for one person in a school to administer, Oman said.
“If you do not put the program to rest, I’m not sure how we’d administer it,” Oman added.
The Slippery Rock School Board still has another month to decide the matter. It is expected to vote in March on a recommendation from Superintendent Lee Beaton to stop the practice.
Beaton brought up the issue in December after teachers complained about having to distribute the tablets. Because fluoride is a prescription drug, the teachers’ union refuses to continue the practice which had been going on since the late 1980s.
Since December David Duryea, the district dentist, has talked to the board about the benefits of fluoride. Some school board members are reluctant to end the program.
Beaton said she plans to stick to her recommendation to end the program and leave it up to each parent to administer fluoride if they choose to do so.
“We’re not here to debate whether fluoride is good or bad; we’re saying it’s the obligation of the parent, just like immunizations,” she said.
As for the cost of the fluoride, she said parents using state supplemented insurance programs will likely receive discounts or free tablets.
The school nurses said they could work with parents to educate them on how and where to obtain tablets.
If the school board decides soon, that information could be available at kindergarten registrations.