Sister Jacqueline Kapanowski opened the Board of Health meeting with a statement citing court cases and laws showing the why she believes the position the town funds is, in fact, legal.
ADAMS, Mass. — St. Stanislaus Kostka School is questioning the state Department of Revenue's ruling that the town can't fund the school nurse position.
The town has been paying for a part-time school nurse for years at the private parochial school.
The state agrees with Town Counsel Edmund St. John III that the funding violates the anti-aid amendment in the state constitution, which limits use of public funds on private entities.
The difference in opinion stems from the exception list — Chapter 71, Section 57 — which provides exceptions for certain services. The contract between the Board of Health and the school nurse goes beyond those services, according to St. John, while school officials say it doesn't.
"They are limited to testing services, not having a nurse staffed in the school," St. John said. "The contract goes beyond that."
St. John added that the exemptions must be per individual requests from parents and not automatically.
Section 57 specifically refers to screenings under boards of health for hearing, sight, posture, feet and "other physical defects" for all students. Private schools can also offer those services, through boards of health, or recommend parents take their children to appropriate health care officials.
Attorney Maurice Cahillane, representing the school, told the board that the state's response wasn't very clear and he has asked for DOR to expand on its opinion. Cahillane said the part-time services are of a very basic level and would be exempted from the anti-aid amendment.
"Why would it be constitutional to take a kid's height and weight but unconstitutional to give them a Band-Aid?" Cahillane asked. "It didn't make sense."
While the sides disagree on the contract, Board of Health members said they will pay for a third-party nurse to perform those screening services that they know are exempted per each request. But they did not take action on the contract while they wait for Cahillane's information.
The board said they have a responsibility to make sure everything is done legally and didn't want to render a decision yet.
"It isn't because we don't want to fund nursing services at St. Stan's. That has nothing to do with it," Chairwoman Patricia Clairmont said. "It is all about the legality. ... All we want is to make sure it is OK."
Parents immediately said they would be sending letters requesting those tests but were still not satisfied. Those in attendance wanted the board to sign the contract anyway because town meeting had overwhelmingly rejected the legal opinion to reinstate the funds.
"We voted that and we should continue that," said Starr Baker. "I feel as a town meeting member that somebody is trying to throw a block in there for some other reason because the amount of money we are talking about is miniscule."
Meanwhile, the Catholic school has put aside funding to keep a part-time nurse in the school.
Both Clairmont and St. John said the issue arose out of Town Administrator Jonathan Butler's office. During the budget process, Butler had some of the same questions about the legality of the funding as past town administrators and asked St. John to render an opinion. Clairmont said Butler approached the board and asked why the funding was there and with the only answer being "we've always done it," they, too, requested St. John's opinion.