Counterpoint: School nurse policies need reform

Counterpoint%3A+School+nurse+policies+need+reform

Hannah Rosenberg, Contributing Writer

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, ensuring the safety of schools for students and staff has been a very difficult, but necessary journey that school officials are still learning to navigate.  As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout Nassau County and the presence of the highly contagious Omicron variant on Long Island has been confirmed, our current school nurse policies should remain, as they have done their part to keep infection rates at a minimum.

Currently, in order to leave class to go to the nurses office, students must ask for permission from their teachers and then sign out.  Although this rule is a minor inconvenience that may lead students to hesitate to visit the nurse, it is in place for a good reason: it allows for containment of the virus to one room.  Since September of last year, the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) Health and Safety guidelines have recommended that school nurses operate two separate spaces: an isolation room for COVID-19 related symptoms and a space for all other medical issues.  In order to maintain this separation and to safely direct students to the correct space upon arrival, the nurses must have knowledge of the symptoms of incoming patients.  

“The nurse needs information from the teacher to prepare in advance for a student to arrive,” said Principal Dr. Ira Pernick.  

Necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stringent enforcement of mask-wearing rules can also be bothersome to students who get reprimanded for either not wearing or incorrectly wearing their masks.  For this reason, some students and parents may dislike and feel concerned about the enforcement of the mask mandate in New York State school districts.  However, the school has little choice on this matter, as the NYSED’s Health and Safety guidelines for the 2021-2022 school year—which Schreiber is required, by law, to abide by—state that indoor mask-wearing is required “for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission levels.”  

 “The level of consequence would be based upon a number of factors but the potential certainly exists for more than just a reprimand if necessary,” said Assistant Principal Mr. David Miller when asked what the punishments for improper mask-wearing would include.  

Consequences for improper mask-wearing are critical to prevent students and teachers from contracting COVID-19, as there would be more of an incentive to follow school rules.  Schreiber should be commended, not criticized, for upholding NYSED’s policies, as they will ultimately protect everyone in school.  

In addition, some students and parents may be frustrated by the nurses office’s standard of requiring COVID-19 testing for all students with cold symptoms.  Under the current school policy, any student who comes to the nurses office and shows symptoms of the virus—which overlap tremendously with those of almost any other respiratory symptom from a simple cold to the flu—must get tested, regardless of their likelihood of actually testing positive for COVID-19 (New York State Department of Health).  Determining whether or not the student has COVID-19 is impossible without a test due to the conflux of other seasonal viruses, so testing is imperative.  

“Unfortunately we do not have the liberty to make the determination of whether they need a test or not. Simply put, any symptoms that are COVID-like get tested,” said District Medical Coordinator Nurse Dawn Bollerman. 

While their lack of discretion on testing often makes them a target for complaints, the nurses have the state guidelines to refer to as the reason for their policies.  

“We bend over backwards for parents all the time,” said Ms. Bollerman.  

Although the complete safety of the school during the pandemic cannot be guaranteed, the policies currently instituted in Schreiber’s nursing office and the general school should give students, parents, and staff peace of mind.  The rigidity of the mask-wearing and testing rules, as well as the nurses office’s administrative policies, will contribute to a lower infection rate at Schreiber.