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School Nurses are Essential for Overcoming COVID

Because this past week was Appreciation Week for Teachers, School Nurses and Transportation, the District would like to highlight people in each of these areas. If you haven’t already, please take time to consider what these employees have done for others this past year and offer your thanks!

In a typical school year, the 27 school nurses (both LPNs and RNs) working in the North Syracuse Central School District’s public and parochial schools are quite busy attending to the health needs of their schools’ populations. In a pandemic school year, their work days are a blur of constant motion that extends into the evening and weekend hours.
NSCSD School Nurses and Athletic Trainers spent hours providing COVID testing for student athletes when it was required in order for participation. Testing for athletes was
done in addition to the many other COVID requirements. 
Since the pandemic began in March of 2020 the NSCSD has worked diligently to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff. The work that school nurses have done has been invaluable in keeping the District open.
  Donald F.X. Keegan, the District’s Associate Superintendent for Business Services, recently compiled a list of COVID-related expenditures. Keegan said, “Over the past year, we have incurred a great deal of unexpected costs working through the pandemic. In one year’s time, our monetary costs have been tremendous but the toll on our students and staff has been devastating. Our school nurses have been on the front lines this past year and we owe them an incredible thank you.”
The District estimates expenses for personal protective equipment at around $285,000 for the year. Much of the PPE has been used by school nursing staff as they worked with sick or potentially ill students and staff.

Peg Puma is one of three school nurses at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. She has worked as a school nurse for more than 15 years but admits she has never seen one like the past year. “We’ve all made a great deal of adjustments this past year and it has been hard but I’m proud to have been a part of it. Everything we’ve done has been to keep people safe,” Puma said.

The school nurses in the NSCSD have all been extensively involved with COVID management and have served as their building’s COVID resource and point of contact. In addition to monitoring student and staff illness, the nurses have dedicated their work days to ensuring that quarantine requirements are met, contact tracing protocols are followed and families receive the information they need.

When it became necessary to provide COVID testing in schools, the nurses coordinated testing with the Onondaga County Department of Health and administered the tests when needed. When it became necessary to test student athletes in order for them to participate in sports, the nurses stepped in and ensured that the testing was provided. In some cases, more than 350 tests were administered to athletes on a weekly basis.

Puma talked about the magnitude of the District’s testing efforts. She said, “We all had to pull together to make [testing] happen but we did it. In some cases our nurses have spent their entire work day helping sick students and making contact tracing calls and THEN have volunteered to [test athletes]. Our kids deserve to have some sense of normalcy and I’m proud to be a part of what makes that possible.”

Dr. Christopher Leahey, the NSCSD Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, is the District-Wide COVID Safety Coordinator and serves as the overall resource for COVID management. Over the past year, Dr. Leahey has worked very closely with the school nurses and is grateful for their efforts.
Dr. Leahey said, “Our nurses have done an extraordinary job managing COVID. In addition to their day-to-day assignments, they are screening students, contact tracing, communicating with the Health Department and families, and leading our efforts to keep our doors open and students in school.”
Thank you to all the NSCSD school nurses and health office staff!