I am sharing a series of private messages between me and a mom who is also a nurse that is very concerned about her child’s school reopening plan. I have permission to share the conversation without revealing any identifying information. This discussion gives the reader an inside view of the stress parents are facing, especially in states that have not implemented the most basic protective measures! It also reveals the power of nurse innovation and how we speak up for the health of the community. I am thankful that this nurse/mom felt comfortable reaching out to me on Twitter and cheer on her efforts to hold the school district accountable!
Nurse/Mom: Robin, thank you so much for your tireless efforts to keep kids safe in school. I’m drafting a letter to my child’s homeroom teacher who wore a loose one-ply t-shirt material mask that often went below his nose when he talked to us during the parent open house this week. We are in a district that thankfully requires masking for all. I’m offering to share some extra kn95 masks we have with him and other transfers and included (without directly accusing) information about how tight and quality masks are important. Any other advice besides reaching out to the school nurse again to add this to my list of concerns? Already called and emailed asking for outside lunch instead of the cafeteria and got a partial win: kids can go outside after they eat. Thanks! I’m a former middle school nurse (only 2 years in the mid-90s) , but now in my 25th year of working with adults. Much better fit for me;).
Me: Hi. Thank you so much for reaching out. Your concerns are shared, I promise you that! I know how stressful this is, especially because your child is not yet eligible for the vaccine. Has the school nurse been responsive to your concerns, suggestions? It is an overwhelming task, that much I can confirm. Your offer is generous in sharing kN95s and info about properly fitting masks. Where is your child seated in class? I am sure you heard about the classroom outbreak in CA where the unvaccinated teacher took off her mask to read to the students. Those students in the first two rows became infected because the teacher was asymptomatic. This is what we are up against…it is hard and anxiety-producing. Where does your district stand on pooled testing? Are they doing it for students? Is staff proof of vaccination mandatory and/or will staff testing be implemented?
Nurse/Mom: Hi Robin. Thank you so much for the reply!!! The school nurse did call me last week after I emailed her and told me she had 5 minutes before a meeting to listen to my questions and told me she would discuss with the principal and hasn’t gotten back to me in the past week. I messaged her and the principal again today to ask for specifics at the school level re: ventilation, windows/doors open or not and enforcement of staff’s proper masking, lunch option outside, offer to volunteer with other parents at lunch. I got a reply saying an all-school message will come to us on Tuesday to answer more questions. That is 1 day before the kids start. Our school system doesn’t have a mandate for teachers/staff vaccination or testing, for staff or students. Just recommendations to be tested weekly if unvaccinated. More frequently for those in sports.
This feels like a big mistake and yet I still plan to send my child to the first day of school because I know they can keep the Enro mask on and I’ve taught them to put food in their mouth and then re-mask to eat. It’s so sad. I’m so angry. Other kids don’t have the resources and knowledge of the risks there are taking. And I am not seeing the district or school take this as seriously as it needs to be taken. I have been following the news including the teacher you mention who unmasked. We don’t know the seating assignment but she will have 7 different classes in a school of 1000 and as far as I know, only those at their lunch table will be in their pod of quarantine if someone tests positive. I’m holding out hope that our school district is coming up with a more detailed plan for testing and quarantine guidelines that they’re going to share on Tuesday but the way things are going I’m likely to be disappointed. Thanks for the supportive words and for taking the time to reply and inquire about more details, Robin. Please stay safe and keep supporting your colleagues during this rough time. I send you a virtual hug and wishes for people to listen to you when you tell it like it is. Warmly…
Me: Your message needs to be shared far and wide. I would never break your confidence or include any identifying information, but would you give me permission to share? I would not identify your state or the gender/age of your child. School districts across the country have left parents in the dark about safety plans, including my own. It is unnerving for everyone and mostly because they are woefully unprepared for what is about to happen. The push to bring everyone back in full completely disregards one of the most protective factors, physical distancing. It is impossible to cohort or pod students under these circumstances. The guidelines use the verbiage “if feasible” and that gives districts the green light to not do it!
This is a message I received from a school nurse this week: Today will be my last day as a school nurse. Made it almost 20 years. But with little to no support, fatigue, and ever-demanding COVID duties have worn me down in the first month back at work. I was the 4th of 5 to resign this past week.
Nurse/Mom: Oh that breaks my heart to read that message from the school nurse. I’m not surprised though. This is untenable. I started digging into our state department of health best practices guidelines for schools this morning. Their master document was updated just yesterday (!) to include more guidelines for layered mitigation in schools and testing options including individual and pooled for districts to opt into. I am hoping our district opts-in and leadership at the schools insist on adherence to effective masking etc. also! I just got a reply from the teacher I emailed. I educated him about masking. He appreciated it and is sharing it with the other 6th grade teachers. He also accepts my offer of kn95 masks. Progress! Yes, you can share my story de-identified. Thanks, Robin