By Jan Carabeo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As a school community grieves the death of a first grader, parents aren’t just pleading for change anymore, they are demanding it.
Demanding more money for Philadelphia schools and demanding schools don’t open in September if there isn’t a full-time nurse in each and every building.
Heartbroken Andrew Jackson Elementary School parents stood united Thursday in front of a school that’s now dealing with the loss of one of its youngest students.
Sal Genestra says, “My heart goes out to the family. It’s terrible.”
A first grader, just seven-years-old, who lived at a homeless shelter with his family in West Philadelphia, suffered a medical emergency yesterday afternoon.
District Spokesperson Fernando Gallard says, “We were blessed to have certified personnel on site and also that the emergency personnel came here in less than five minutes.”
But there was no full-time nurse at the school.
Officials say a retired nurse just happened to be at school and two other staff members were certified in CPR too.
Jackson only has a part-time nurse on Thursdays and every-other Friday.
Learning that the boy later died at the hospital, parents are left wondering what if.
Shawn Watts comments he’s, “Scared and sad.”
Khadija Nicholas asks, “A child died, what could be more serious than that?”
An autopsy is now complete, but not yet public.
While officials aren’t sure if a nurse would have made a difference, these parents say they shouldn’t have to take that chance.
President of Friends of Jackson Melissa Wilde says, “We have a right as parents and our children have a right as students to a school nurse at all times.”
Meanwhile, the West Philadelphia Families Forward Philadelphia Shelter, where this family was staying, issued this statement:
“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the child’s family, and we will do all we can to assist the family through their time of sorrow. We are cooperating fully with the authorities in their investigation…”
The district spokesperson tells CBS3 that only some schools here in Philadelphia have a full-time nurse because of budget cuts.
Superintendent William Hite issued a statement regarding the passing of the student: “Yesterday, the Andrew Jackson Elementary School community experienced a tragic loss. A student became ill at the school and later passed away at the hospital. On behalf of the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission, I want to express our most sincere condolences to the family, friends and members of the Jackson Elementary community.
At the time of the incident, the student was surrounded by loving and caring people, including a school counselor, teacher, support staff and community volunteer. Working with emergency personnel, they did their best to provide comfort and medical assistance to the student. We are tremendously grateful for their service.
This incident, however, illustrates the serious needs and challenges that our students, teachers, staff and principals face every day. During times of tragedy, our community should not have to question whether an extra staff member or program would have made a difference. We should all feel confident that our schools have everything they need.
This school year has been tremendously challenging on several fronts. Our pleas for sustainable funding are based on obvious needs. We urge our funders to provide the School District with the $440 million needed to adequately serve our schools. We cannot afford one more year of inadequately funded schools.”