School nurses also feed kids, take on projects
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Eagle Staff Writer
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January 13, 2018
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Elementary nurse Tracy Dailey, left, and high school nurse Holly Irwin fill backpacks for a weekly needs-based program that distributes backpacks with staple food items to elementary students in the Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District.

For many school nurses, it's natural to take on projects that go beyond their job descriptions if it means caring for their students.

School nurses at districts throughout the county head up extra projects to feed students on weekends, give them presents at the holidays and take care of public health issues.

Brenda Knoll, assistant principal at Karns City Junior/Senior High School, said the nurses also work closely with guidance counselors to assist students, whether that means providing holiday presents or helping out during times of change.

It's a similar situation at South Butler School District, said Jenny Webb, communications director for the district. The nurses work with administrators, teachers, counselors and intervention staff to support students as needed.

“School nurses often have input and first-hand knowledge of students with these needs,” she said.

At the Seneca Valley School District, school nurses brought in a doctoral student from Robert Morris University to do a presentation on opioid use targeted at middle school parents, said Liz Williams, school nurse at the Seneca Valley Middle School.

“What they've found from talking to addicts is that their first experience, not true addiction, but it probably happened around middle school age,” Williams said.

About 40 parents came out for that presentation, she said.

A new public health program at Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District will allow nurses and parents to get in tune to what illnesses are going around the school and react.

The FLUency program is run by Kinsa Health. It gives participating parents a free thermometer that connects to their smart phone and allows them to track their children's vitals on an app, Daily said.

Parents can record their children's symptoms, medications and other health stats. They can also get an anonymous report about other children in that grade to see what symptoms are going around and what diagnoses other parents are reporting.

The nurses can see the anonymous data for all grades.

“It will let me see if I have three cases of strep throat in third grade,” Dailey said.

Parents signed up for the voluntary program in December and will get their thermometers this month, Dailey said. They hope it will help them better track and prevent illnesses from spreading through the school just in time for peak flu season.

Backpack for Success, a collaborative program between the school nurses at A-C Valley School District and parent Amanda Sherry, gives children in need a backpack full of food to get them through the weekend, said Tracy Dailey, nurse at A-C Valley Elementary School.

“It's just a way that we know food is getting into their bellies,” Dailey said.

They partner with churches and other community groups to get donations of food items and money to fill the backpacks.

They pack the food up on Thursdays at the school and send it home with children on Fridays, Dailey said.

Each student gets 10 to 12 easy-to-prepare and eat foods and snacks.

The initial distribution was the first weekend in November to about 70 children in the elementary school. As word got out about the program, the nurses started including high school students when they saw a need.

There are 93 students in the program, Dailey said, and they give students a little extra when they can.

“We also asked families to tell us who is in the families and we may send things home to younger kids as well who are not in school yet,” Dailey said.

Slippery Rock and Karns City school districts also have weekend backpack food programs.