School Nurses Brace for Upcoming Year, Unknown Pandemic Effects

Local school nurses now have the challenging role of leading schools through campus re-opening plans. When that will be, though, is still unclear

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As you know, local schools are starting the year online but plans are underway to bring students back, eventually. During a pandemic, school nurses will take on a role like never before.

The National Association of School Nurses provides recommendations about infection control measures for school districts across the country.

For local registered school nurse Juliet Dela Paz, health and safety plans are front and center.

“It’s gonna be an all-hands-on-deck scenario. I think everyone is gearing up for that,” said Dela Paz. “We are gonna be health experts. We are gonna be the leaders and determining best courses of action to minimize the risk of spread within the school setting.”

Dela Paz has been with the San Diego Unified School District for 14 years and has gotten used to the “scarcity” model of staffing in the past during budget cuts. But that cna't be the case this year, she said.

“We are gonna have to staff up. We are going to need funding and we are gonna have to call on our elected officials to fund education. Not just proper levels pre-pandemic, but in greater numbers,” she said.

It won’t be a one-size fits all approach, she told NBC 7. Each school will have different health needs and campuses will have to be ready to pivot at any point.

“So if you have a school that has higher health needs, our goal is to really staff to acuity. So that takes the staff of nurses to look at all the different needs within a school setting and staff appropriately,” said Dela Paz.

San Diego Unified School District public information officer Andrew Sharp provided the following statement:

"Nurses are playing a leading role in the response to Covid-19, as nurses always do in public health emergencies. Pre-Covid-19, school nurses served as contract tracers for tuberculosis, pertussis, meningitis, chickenpox and measles - just to name a few diseases. That is why San Diego Unified has consistently argued for increased state and federal funding for school nurses. Currently, we have a nurse assigned to every school, and that level of support will continue in the coming school year. We also plan to expand our health office resources. School nurses will continue their vital work to trace anyone who may have come into contact with Covid-19-positive individuals, and nurses will continue helping students manage chronic and acute health conditions. Even while schools remain physically closed, nurses are working hard to help all students access their education, while planning for the safest possible return once the level of community spread makes it permissible for schools to reopen.”

“I know everyone’s afraid. Everyone has some anxiety to some level and there comes the point where you break through that fear and realize it’s a call to action,” said Dela Paz.

Dela Paz said her job to keep students safe is a calling that has remained steady for her and her coworkers throughout the summer.

 “They’re just some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. From our admin to our front office staff to over the summer our food service staff serving our students and families in need. I’m really honored and I think we can do it. I really do," said dela Paz.

SDUSD is expected to reveal more details of its reopening plan on Monday.

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