SC school districts struggle to find nurses as COVID cases surge

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 12:17 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 12:20 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina students headed back to class and in many districts, COVID cases are climbing.

“We’re seeing children get sick. That’s a safety concern for me,” Lexington Richland District 5 Interim Superintendent Dr. Akil Ross said.

This is as the mask debate continues between the state, schools, and parents.

“We know that the masks work in terms of keeping kids safe,” said Superintendent Wilson with Calhoun Schools. “That shouldn’t just be left up to parents, that should be left up to people inside those walls that work with these kids daily.”

Districts also dealing with additional stress caused by a nationwide shortage of school nurses.

“Having nurses in schools is something that is really pertinent to the education and the ability to educate because if children are not well they can’t learn,” said Judith Thompson the CEO of the South Carolina Nurses Association.

However, the nursing shortage is not affecting all South Carolina schools.

That’s thanks in part to $5.6 million in funds from the South Carolina General Assembly allocated to ensure every school has a nurse and an extra $3 billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

According to the South Carolina Department of Education, it’s not a shortage of funds leading to a lack of school nurses but rather competition from positions in other nursing industries.

“It’s very important that children have someone that’s able to recognize that they might not be well,” said Thompson.

Kershaw County school officials say finding school nurses have been a challenge but they were able to add four nurses this year.

Richland 2 says they have one opening for a nurse.

While Calhoun County Schools say they are fully staffed.

“I can just imagine for those districts who don’t have a nurse per school that they are very concerned,” said Dr. Wilson. “These are professionals they know their job, they know what to look for in terms of this pandemic.”

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