Working and Communicating With Parents and Administration During COVID-19
As school systems continue to deliver virtual learning, in-person learning, or a hybrid model, there are many challenges to maintaining open lines of communication between school nurses and the families and staff they serve. Households without internet access or computers may prove challenging from a communication standpoint, but there are many ways to make a positive impact. To best address the educational and health needs of this population, school nurses will need to disseminate instructional materials in a variety of ways and covering a variety of topics.
Guidance by the school nurse to the school community can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. Students with chronic diseases may need the medications and procedure supplies that were used at school sent home, such as for G-tube feeding, catherization, as well as supplies for diabetes management, asthma care, severe allergies. This list is not considered comprehensive and should be based on individual student needs. Diapers and wipes have been in short supply in the community, and families may need to get these from school for their students with special health needs.
Prepping Materials to Send Home
Establish a screening procedure for staff assisting with the material preparation. Anyone assisting with material preparation should be free of any COVID-19 related symptoms, including fever of 100.4 or higher, cough, or shortness of breath. They should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use 70% alcohol hand sanitizer prior to preparing materials. They should not have been in contact recently with anyone with COVID-19, whether at work or at home.
- When preparing materials to be sent home, clean and disinfect the area, and ensure adequate space, light, and ventilation.
- Place paper documents into large envelopes that have a tie or use tape/labels to secure. Do not use envelopes that require moisture to secure.
- Disinfect plastics and electronic devices according to manufacturer recommendations.
- If using backpacks or cloth bags, make sure they are either new or have been laundered.
- Prep materials at least 24 hours in advance for paper and 72 hours in advance for plastic.
- Return medications and other health supplies to families only at the request of the parent or guardian, and document in accordance with legal requirements/medication policy.
Methods of Distribution
There are three viable options for sending materials home: create a designated pick-up site at school, drop off at student homes, or mailing directly to students.
For onsite pick up, consider the various transportation options families rely upon, including community bus routes, and walkable routes, as well as the following recommendations:
- Focus on Title 1 Schools as community hubs to reach families living in poverty.
- If using school nutrition programs, consider partnering with these locations for instructional material pickup.
- Use family drop off lanes outside at schools and ask drivers to place their student’s name on the windshield for easy identification.
- Create walking zones outside of school for in person pickup with tables to maintain 6' distance between staff and families. Use cones, chalk, or tape to direct families and assist them in keeping the required distance apart.
- Instruct families that have an ill family member not to attend. Families can notify the school and send a replacement such as a neighbor or friend, which will require a signed note by the parent.
- Designate specific pickup times to spread out the number of people present at any given time to less than 10 people.
- Medications should be picked up at school sites only by adult family members with a signed note from the parent/guardian.
Drop off procedures using school-bus routes is an option for school systems, especially in rural or tribal areas that cover large geographic areas. Social distancing of 6' must be maintained with no direct contact.
- Bus drivers or other staff may assist with material drop off, including food items at the curb in front of the student’s home.
- Teachers or other staff may drop off items at student homes, with previous notification.
- Be sure anyone dropping items off uses gloves, if available, and applies hand sanitizer before and after each drop off location.
- Leave materials on a porch, driveway, or entryway for apartments/condos.
Mailing materials through the USPS or others is also an option, as long as school system policies are followed. Mailing costs may be recouped through state or federal resources due to the emergency status of the pandemic.
Collecting Materials Back From Families
- If nutrition programs are offered by the school system, consider partnering with these locations for return of instructional materials.
- Use family drop off lanes at outside of schools and have families place the returned items in a bin with a teacher or grade level on the bin for easy identification.
- Use return bins with wheels and lids to secure prior to moving into the school lobby or another central location.
- Create walking zones outside of school for in person drop-off with tables to maintain 6 ft distance between staff and families. Use cones, chalk, or tape to direct families.
- Instruct families that have an ill family member not participate, and instead to notify school and send a replacement such as a neighbor or friend.
- Schedule drop-off times to spread out the number of people present at any given time to less than 10 persons.
- Clean and disinfect all tables and equipment used in the drop off.
- Allow paper materials to sit for 24 hours before they are accessed by staff, and 72 hours for electronic devices.
- Staff should use gloves for moving the materials to an interior location.
- Train staff on proper procedures to clean and disinfect items meeting this requirement.
Choosing the COVID-19 Content to Share With Families
Students will always hear news and gossip about COVID-19, so it is important to make sure they have access to accurate information that is appropriate for their developmental level. However, this information also needs to be presented in a way that doesn’t increase their stress or anxiety.
The National Association of School Nurses and the National Association of School Psychologists created the document “Talking with Children About COVID-19: A Parent Resource.” This document is available at www.nasn.org/covid19 in several languages. There are also a series of videos available on government websites such as www.cdc.gov, www.neatoday.org, and www.pbs.org that cover the basics of talking to children about COVID-19.