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In Focus: Preparing for the School Year

Push for new school nurses amid shortage as school year starts
Virus Outbreak Schools
Posted at 4:15 PM, Jul 14, 2021

BALTIMORE — As school supplies begin to appear at local stores, some parents tell WMAR-2 News, they are worried about the upcoming school year.

The top worry we heard, the continuing pandemic.

School health officials are on the case, despite the fall semester being several weeks away.

Renee Tucker at the Baltimore City Health Department, serves as the community health nurse supervisor and educator for the Bureau of School Health.

"It's been a lot of pressure, being the only medical professional in the school setting," she says.

The City's Health Department helps coordinate nurses for the city's public schools.

In Baltimore County, it's the school system's Office of Health Services, headed up by Debbie Sommerville.

"We want to keep our students healthy and we want to keep them in school. And so we're going to take the steps we need to prevent transmission," says Sommerville.

But some parents are worried.

Angie Moreno has 5 kids in Baltimore County Public Schools.

"A kid sneezed three times in school and the nurses were calling you going, 'Oh, your kid's sick, you need to come and get them,'" Moreno says. "And it doesn't work that way for working parents."

Tucker explains how the City's school system intends to handle students showing symptoms during the school day.

"If the student gets sick while they are in school, we do have a protocol where the student will be sent to what we call a wellness room," says Tucker. "And that's a room where the students who have any particular COVID like illness or COVID symptoms, go there. So at that time, we will actually do a rapid COVID test on that student."

Either way the test turns out, the student would have to go home, but if the rapid test comes back negative, the school would send out a PCR test, for a more definitive result.

Baltimore County Public Schools has a similar testing regiment in place, according to Sommerville.

She says, "The only real way to differentiate between a cold and COVID or any other disease is tests and our school nurses have antigen tests in the school that if the parent agrees, we'll go ahead and do a COVID test right there at school if the students in school with cold symptoms."

As schools continue to finalize policies for the upcoming school year, Tucker says, they are still in need of staff.

"We need a whole lot of nurses," she tells WMAR-2 News.

The City's Health Department has around 20 openings for school nurses, and if you're interested in applying you can find the openings here.