Oakland County is bringing some new employees on board for when schools re-open this fall—nurses.
The Oakland Together School Nurse Initiative calls for hiring 68 nurses. Each nurse would be assigned a school district to work with through December.
The plan is for the nurses to conduct health screenings, train students and teachers on how to follow safety guidelines, and help schools develop individualized plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said it’s extremely important that schools be able to re-open later this year, but we need to keep in mind that COVID-19 is “still with us.”
“We know that there’s a very real danger that we could have a second spike, and it’s possible that re-opening the schools could contribute to that,” Coulter said. “So we want to make sure that we’re addressing that possibility as well.”
The Oakland Intermediate School District says it plans to issue county-wide health safety guidelines by the end of this month. Districts can then use those guidelines to design their own plans for schools.
The nurses can help schools fashion plans that best fit their needs, said Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford.
“Our school nurses will provide communication, training, consultation, and recommendations to the school districts,” Stafford said.
“Each district may look different in their plan. And so the schools, or the school nurses, will work with that district to meet their needs, and adapt the plans for what’s best for those schools.”
The program will require a $2 million allocation of Oakland County’s federal CARES Act money to be approved by the County Board of Commissioners.
Oakland Intermediate School District Superintendent Wanda Cook-Robinson said the ISD is still hashing out broad guidelines for school districts, and how to pay for resources they might need, like hand sanitizer and touchless thermometers. She said there are a lot of complications in the details, like how to maintain distance between students on school buses.
“Those are the kind of issues that we’re dealing with, and you can just imagine how we’re pulling our hair out,” Cook-Robinson said. “I’ve gotten a few gray hairs over this already.”
Cook-Robinson said some parents may not feel safe sending their children back to school at all, and they will find ways to accommodate them.
“Every district in Oakland County will have a remote [learning] option,” Cook-Robinson said. “Right now, we’re talking about a continuum of options.”
“But I am confident that through this [nursing] partnership with the county, that we will have a safe environment for students to return to.”