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Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Are school nurses ready to deal with coronavirus as schools prepare to reopen?

5NEWS spoke with local school nurses about how they are preparing to take care of student's needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Anxiety builds as students prepare to head back to class amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic - especially for school nurses, who will have more to worry about during the health crisis. 

5NEWS spoke with some school nurses in our area about the added pressure they are feeling for this school year.

"This is going to be a little nerve-wracking when school starts," Kathy Launder, Nurse Supervisor for the Springdale School District, said. "I know teachers are very anxious; my staff is very anxious."

"We are all anxious, we're all very anxious," Diane Parker, Nurse Supervisor for the Alma School District, said.

In less than three weeks (August 24), schools in Arkansas will open back up their doors for the first time since March. Diane Parker believes it won't be long till they are closed once again. 

"We left our school with 22 cases in Arkansas on March 16 we have near 46,000. So it is really hard to comprehend what the theory is on us safely returning," Parker told 5NEWS. 

Parker says children will not be able to pop in the nurse's office like years past. 

"We used to be able to come in for gum in the hair, a flip flop, a loose tooth," Diane Parker said. "Now, we're going to prioritize children who potentially could be sick."

Prioritizing children is the central theme for both Alma and Springdale School Districts. 

Kathy Launder, the nurse supervisor for the largest school district in the state, says all elementary school teachers are provided with first-aid kits so they can take care of the simple things.  

"That's something that's going to change this year. We are going to redirect the teachers to say 'hey if you can take care of the little things in the classrooms, that would be wonderful to keep all of the children out of here' so we won't have that usually run of so many children," Launder said. 

The Springdale School District has around 23,000 students, with a total of 36 nurses. Each school has one nurse, and the high schools have two. Launder has been asking for extra masks, goggles and face shields for staff. 

Springdale Schools have moved some health rooms from smaller to larger spaces so the nurse's office can have more of a quarantine area. 

"We will do the very best we can. We will support our teachers. We are going to support our kids. Kids first and foremost, and we're going to support our parents and guide everyone to make the right decisions. It won't be perfect, but we're going to do the very best we can."

Launder says she, along with the rest of the school nurses in the state are waiting to receive protocols from doctors in Little Rock with specific guidelines. They expect to have the rubric by Tuesday, August 11. 


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