In just a few months, walking through the school hallways went from a mindless task to an impossible problem that must be solved in order to avoid a real-life Contagion sequel. After the outbreak of COVID-19, the high school staff took on the responsibility of redesigning every part of the school day for a socially distanced school year. On the frontline of this project were the nurses, who, over the summer, redefined what it means to be a high school nurse during a worldwide pandemic.
“Our boss, Linda Corridan and the nursing staff spent all summer thinking through lunches, tents, going up and down in the hallways, how to socially distance buses, and so many more variables. In preparation for the school year we were constantly having zoom meetings with our department, attending Boston Children’s Hospital webinars to stay up to date on how to combat the virus, and sending out newsletters to your parents,” said high school nurse Shari Johnson. Johnson alongside the two other school nurses, Krisann Miller and Pamela Sheridan, collaborated with the Wellesley Public Schools nursing department and other high school staff to design new protocols dictating how to provide in-school medical care to students and staff.
Before a student can arrive at the nurses’ office, their teacher must call in advance so that the nurses can be prepared to take their temperature at the door. If a student has a fever, they are transferred into a new medical waiting room, specifically to separate possible COVID-19 cases from students and staff with unrelated health issues. However, according to Miller, if a student unexpectedly arrives at the nurse, the staff does their best to meet them at the door, immediately take their temperature, ask about their symptoms, and then either allow them into the main office or transfer them into the waiting room.
“This year, to keep our main office free from infection we got a filter to purify and circulate our air as much as possible, and we are limiting the number of kids we allow in our office at once,” said Sheridan. “This year is a lot different, not just because we are living through a pandemic, but because we used to see so many more kids and build relationships with them, and now there is so much separation, particularly in the nurses department to limit the spread of infection as much as we can.”
Sheridan emphasized how different the approach to this school year is for everyone; from constantly wearing masks to preparing for contact tracing, the administration, staff, and students all have obstacles to overcome in this hybrid school format. Although the entire world is living through an unknown, the nursing staff encourages high school students and staff to stay positive and abide by social distancing rules.
“We don’t know when this [the pandemic] will come to an end, but there will be an end. We need to hang on to hope that this isn’t a permanent situation. Stay the course and do what you need to do, there may be peaks and valleys but that is with anything in life, and I think Wellesley has done a good job to keep our numbers low. Know that there are good things to come, and try to find joy in each day. Try to practice a random act of kindness to make yourself feel good,” said Miller.