Students in Pryor are heading back to school in person Tuesday, and the district said it is ready. There will be a nurse at every school site in the district, which is rare in Oklahoma.
Pyror Public Schools said it was already planning to hire another nurse this year, then COVID-19 hit. The superintendent said the district was able to hire two nurses with money from the CARES Act.
The classrooms at Roosevelt Elementary are ready for the first day of school Tuesday, with room for students to be spread out as much as possible. Just down the hallway, Health Services Director and School Nurse, Jenny Line is ready, too.
“We're gonna do our absolute best to keep them healthy and safe. That is our number one priority through all of this,” Line said.
This is her sixth year with the district and this year, she is welcoming two more nurses.
"When I started here I was actually hired as a second nurse, so over these six years we have been so fortunate and blessed to add a nurse to every site,” she said.
Each one is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in science, which Line said is a unique position to be in.
The Department of Education said its data from the 2019-2020 school year shows out of 547 districts across Oklahoma, about 400 do not have a nurse on staff. Just under 150 districts have at least one nurse.
One of the new nurses at Pryor, Alisan Martin, said having a nurse at every school site puts her district at an advantage.
"To have someone immediately available at every school system, even if it just for a question, or for an emergency that's occurring,” Martin said.
Martin decided to become a school nurse after working 11 years at St. Francis, and is taking a pay cut.
"I wanna be close to home and closer to my kids. All of our family is here. I just wanna really get more involved,” Martin said.
Haley Poole, who will be the school nurse at Lincoln Elementary, shared her outlook for tomorrow:
"Show each other grace, and just go with the flow,” Poole said.
Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement, “The importance of a school nurse cannot be stressed enough. School nurses play a foundational role in a child’s education. In some instances, they are the only health care professional a student may see. Nurses have also been named as an important member of OSDE’s Return to Learn framework as schools prepare to be back in session during this worldwide pandemic. Our schools and students need school nurses now more than ever.”
Pyror Superintendent Don Raleigh said about 8% of students in his district are enrolled for virtual learning.