Schools-hospital deal focuses on nursing

A partnership between Franklin schools and Johnson Memorial Health won’t generate money solely for athletics.

Instead, the focus of the agreement is to have the hospital take on all of the school district’s nurses as employees, saving the school district $200,000 to $250,000 per year in salaries and benefits. School officials aren’t yet sure where that money would be spent.

The partnership will begin next school year and will last five years. In the first year, Johnson Memorial Health will give Franklin schools a $200,000 stipend to cover school nurse salaries. The hospital then will hire the eight nurses — one at each school — for the rest of the partnership. Franklin schools is still negotiating a contract with the hospital and wants to include a clause that will guarantee the jobs of the nurses should the partnership end at some point, Franklin Superintendent David Clendening said. The district’s current health care coordinator, Amanda Martin, will remain a school district employee and will oversee the school nurse program.

“I really see this as becoming a long-term relationship,” Clendening said. “However, we’re always going to have school nurses, and they’ll probably be able to transition back into our school system if that ever was the case.”

In exchange, the hospital will be able to advertise on the scoreboard and scorer’s table at high school and middle school athletic facilities and performing arts venues.

The agreement also makes Johnson Memorial Health the exclusive health care and sports medicine provider sponsor for Franklin schools. This means the hospital will be responsible for the day-to-day health care and sports medicine needs of students and staff. The health network could build its name through the relationship with the school district, potentially bringing more patients to its hospital, clinics and doctors, said Larry Heydon, chief executive officer of Johnson Memorial Health.

“This kind of partnership is a trend that we are seeing more of now between the school districts and health care providers in the Indianapolis area,” Heydon said. “Being located in Franklin, we want to help Franklin Community Schools by relieving the financial pressure of their school nurse program. I think the school district values what we bring to the table, and we appreciate all that it does for our community.”

Exactly where that money would go is still being decided, Clendening said. In 2013, the school district cut 18 teaching positions to help make up for funding shortfalls and expected to save about $1 million per year. Officials said at the time they likely wouldn’t be able to fill those positions again for at least 10 years while the school district lost money to tax caps and had to pay off debt for new school buildings, including the high school.

“Right now, nothing is earmarked,” Clendening said. “Once we have the money, we’ll have time to study what opportunities are available to us. We will definitely be good stewards of it.”

Since 2011, Johnson Memorial Hospital has been the exclusive sports medicine provider for Franklin schools. In exchange, the hospital helped pay for T-shirts, awards and other athletic department materials, helped cover the cost of an athletic trainer and provided a doctor trained in treating concussions for student athletes. Under the new partnership, Johnson Memorial Health will pay the salary of one trainer and 20 percent of the salary for another.

The agreement differs from the athletics-focused partnerships other local school districts have formed in recent years with health care providers.

In 2013, Center Grove ended its $125,000-per-year partnership with Johnson Memorial Health and Community Health Network to start one with IU Health. In exchange, the school district got $650,000, half of which paid for new artificial turf and the rest was applied toward future expenses.

In 2011, Clark-Pleasant schools reached an agreement with Johnson Memorial Health and Community Health Network. The district received $200,000, which paid for new bleachers at Whiteland Community High School’s football stadium and a pole barn practice facility for the school’s softball and baseball teams.

Johnson Memorial Health recently removed itself from this partnership to lend more support to a school district in the hospital’s home community, Heydon said.

Clendening is looking forward to working more closely with Johnson Memorial Health.

“We’re just happy to strengthen our partnership with Johnson Memorial Health,” he said. “This makes sense on both sides.”

The school district and hospital also will consider merging Johnson Memorial Health’s Discovery Daycare Program with the school district’s newly created Cub Academy preschool.

At a glance

Here is a look at who gets what under a new five-year partnership between Johnson Memorial Health and Franklin schools:

Franklin schools

A $200,000 stipend to pay the salaries and benefits of all school nurses. In future years, those nurses would become employees of Johnson Memorial Health.

Johnson Memorial Health will pay the salary of one athletic trainer and 20 percent of the salary for another.

Johnson Memorial Health

Advertising on the scoreboard and scorer’s table at high school and middle school athletic facilities and performing arts venues.

Promotion through announcements at sporting events, a full-page ad in the schools’ athletic bulletins at events and a monthly email on wellness-related topics to students’ families.

Johnson Memorial Health would be the exclusive health care and sports medicine provider sponsor for Franklin schools and responsible for the day-to-day health care and sports medicine needs of students and staff. The health network could build its name through the relationship with the school district, potentially bringing more patients to its hospital, clinics and doctors.

Also considering

Merging Johnson Memorial Health’s Discovery Daycare Program with the school district’s newly created Cub Academy preschool.