COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Association of School Nurses says it’s too soon and disease spread is too high to send children back to school for in-person learning.
This comes after Governor Henry McMaster held a press conference Wednesday urging school districts to give parents the option of returning to the classroom five days a week.
While these nurses understand the need for in-person learning, they don’t think that should come at the expense of risking students’ and teachers’ safety.
“I kind of feel like school districts are being thrown to the wolves. It is too soon. Right now across the state, we are high and we are the third highest in the nation in COVID,” said Dawn MacAdams, immediate past president of the Association of Nurses and lead nurse for Richland School District Two.
More than 120 schools currently do not have a full-time nurse, and more than 70 only have a part-time nurse. MacAdams is expecting that staffing shortage to get even worse.
“I am predicting I will have six to seven nurses out on FMLA, probably six to seven health room assistants on FMLA, up to nine schools that don’t even have an assistant, and then some of the schools, it’s the nurse and the assistant that could potentially be out on Family Medical Leave because of underlying health conditions,” she explained.
The Association of School Nurses believes these positions need to be filled before students can return to school safely.
“There will then be no one there making sure health standards are being taken seriously and to then track disease progression through the school,” MacAdams said.
The recommendations put forth from public health officials and the AccelerateED task force suggest school nurses will have to monitor students and teachers who show symptoms of COVID-19, as well as help with contact tracing.
“School nurses are worried. Are they going to be able to keep up with the pace and the caseload? How are they going to get everything done, as well as worrying about disease transmission?” asked MacAdams
These health professionals want the decision of whether or not to reopen to be left to each district. The association is asking for CARES Act funding to hire more nurses, and they also want to make sure each school has a clear protocol for how to isolate staff and students who become ill while at school.
The Association of School Nurses says protecting high-risk and vulnerable staff and students must be considered in any reopening plan. A recent study by SC for Ed showed two in every five South Carolina school staff members have an underlying disability or health condition.