KISD school nurses at forefront of COVID fight

Katie Jachade is one of the several school nurses at Kerrville ISD campuses who have continually looked out for the health of the students on each campus every day. But this school year, Jachade, as nurse coordinator, and all the others have the added responsibility of being ever-watchful for COVID-19 symptoms and precautions.

“COVID adds to the work load, for sure,” she said, from her neatly organized and very clean clinic at Starkey Elementary School. “At the beginning of the year, we added new processes to what we already were doing.”

She said the protocols on each campus provide screening filters to determine which students need to be seen individually. And that includes “follow-ups” to the screenings.

“It’s a new normal” – as much as we’d all like to have the ‘old normal’ again.”

The nurses’ duties don’t stop with the masses of students on each campus who are attending classes in person, this year.

For the students who are attending school virtually, she and the other nurses also do “call-outs” to check with each student and parent or care-giver, and remind them about the necessary steps they should be taking, to maintain the most healthy environment where they are.

“Here at Starkey, we have all but about 100 of our kids attending in person,” Jachade said. “But we want them all here, to help them get everything they need to be learning.”

She said as planning for this school year started, they added new procedures and steps; and in the planning it all sounded complicated.

“You have to remember, a face mask is a big thing for little kids,” she said, “but we fine-tuned it over the first few days of school.”

As for the health questions everyone has heard repeatedly, Jachade said if a child answers “yes” to anything on that list – cough, headache, whatever – the nurse’s next step is to check the student more closely for those specific symptoms.

She said at SES, they have an added step in which each child who is cleared for class gets his or her hand stamped for that day of the week, as a sort of tracking system.

At Starkey, they have about 380 youngsters on campus; and set up two screening points, either while the students are still in their parents’ cars, or at the curb.

“I stay in the building to be ready to go either to the front or back, if one of the kids answers ‘yes’ to a screening question.”

Since she’s also responsible for the former “normal” contacts with some students, including medication-dispensing, she has to get to know every student, especially the new ones for this year.

“Masks make it harder. I’ve been using my brightest, most friendly voice when I talk to them because they can’t see all my face and my smile anymore. All they can see are my eyes, and they can’t tell if I’m smiling or frowning.”

She said some students are using the clear face shields instead of the masks.

Jachade said before the school year started, the principals got advice from the teachers; and then Jachade had other questions from her medical standpoint.

“In general, everybody had to be able to get here a little earlier than in previous years’ schedules. And I have a walkie-talkie so they can page me to come where they need me.”

She’s helping oversee the many hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations and the schedule for that; and watching out for students’ social-distancing.

“But the kids love being in school, and being here in person with their friends.”

Inside the clinic, Jachade is cleaning everything between the visits by each child.

“There’s so much cleaning going on everywhere between activities,” she said.

Her clinic is still the stop for treatments, medicine, bandages, stomach aches and head bumps. But if there’s anything concerning or questionable, under the new rules, “there’s far more investigative assessments, when the child says, ‘I sneezed in class.’

“As a nurse, it makes you advance your assessments and due diligence – sometimes not things you check off a list, but you have conversations about it. And we communicate more with parents.”

Her aim, she said, is to establish a baseline with every student.

“It was already a puzzle; and there are even more pieces now. We all want every student and teacher to feel as safe as they can, in these present conditions,” she said. “And now allergies are cropping up again, as usual.”

As nurse coordinator, Jachade works at Starkey and gets reports from her counterparts on every campus.

“I bring things together, and send state reports to Region 20; and coordinate our requirements.

“We also use each other as resources. Some have different strengths with different things. Some have training or experience with screening for scoliosis, which is required at different grade levels. And we have interactions with the kids that are different at each developmental level. For instance, I’m not so involved with athletes, but I’m informed about them at our monthly meetings and any extra ones. And the meetings are all a little longer now.”

She said she’s told the other nurses and the Starkey staff that they are “caring for your ‘everyone’ and their ‘everyone,’ too. And we never know when something might come up, to take care of.”

Jachade said so far, it’s been busy, but it ebbs and flows; and everyone is working – plus she has state reports to fill out and send in.

“I want to be able to see kids’ faces! There were no ‘meet the teacher’ events, so parents don’t really know what the teachers and other staff members look like.”

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