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Rural Oklahoma Schools Cut Nurses, Supplies, Amidst Rising Costs

Schools in rural Oklahoma are cutting nurses, counselors, and supplies to defray rising costs, according to a story by the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Administrators in Cherokee County, in the eastern part of the state, say that an increase in costs from insurance, food, and vendors has contributed to a tighter budget, which means less money for non-essential staff members and textbooks. One school in the county switched to single-gender classes to make it easier to arrange class sections with fewer teachers, while another school has scheduled courses to ensure that a teacher is always available to work as a substitute if another teacher is absent. Schools in the county have also cut school nurses and rely on administrators for first aid needs, and the district has reduced full-time special education and counselor positions to part-time schedules.

More than 54 percent of schools in the Sooner State, and 71 percent of districts, are rural. According to the Rural School and Community Trust, the state's rural schools are poorly funded and have one of the highest percentages of rural students with disabilities in the nation.

The situation in Cherokee County reflects a theme across rural school districts, as many small, cash-strapped schools are unable to afford school nurses, offer mental-health services, or find special education teachers. Rural schools across the nation have stopped upgrading textbooks or buying new supplies to save money, and have found creative ways to offer and schedule classes, such as offering online courses or sharing teachers amongst schools.

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