Salem Public Schools (SPS) Nursing, Health, and Wellness supports, promotes, and protects the health, wellness, and safety of students, teachers, staff, and families across the district.  All schools have a health office that is staffed by full-time registered nurses.  As licensed healthcare providers, our school nurses are valuable resources for any health-related questions or concerns.  Nurses facilitate student health through education, student advocacy, annual state-required health screenings, flu vaccine clinics, maintenance of student health records, communication, and outreach with families and medical providers.  Their work helps all students to be successful academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What health forms are needed for my child for kindergarten?

Children entering kindergarten require a health history form, documentation of a current physical exam and evidence of up-to-date immunizations. Medical providers’ offices quickly fill their scheduled appointments for school physicals during the summer. Please be sure to contact your provider soon to schedule an appointment for your child’s school physical.

A few other health forms will be available to fill out electronically. These include an Emergency Information form to identify individuals who are allowed to pick up your child if you cannot be reached and a Permission to Treat (PTT) form which allows the school nurse to provide care to your child, as needed. These will be available through Aspen.  Please update this information in a timely manner.

What happens if my child gets sick or hurt during the school day?

Each elementary school has a full-time School Nurse. If your child gets sick or hurt during the school day, the nurse will evaluate and treat them immediately. You will be contacted right away if the injury is severe, or if your child needs to go home due to illness. Therefore, it is critical that we have current and valid telephone numbers to reach you in the event of an emergency or illness during the school day. Please keep the school nurse alerted throughout the school year of any changes in your phone number or contact information.

When should I keep my child home from school?

Particularly given the pandemic, children with any of the following symptoms should not come to school:

  • Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
  • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Headache when in combination with other symptoms
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms

If a child experiences any of the above symptoms, they should be tested for active COVID-19. Please follow district guidance regarding COVID-19.

As long as the child has tested negative for COVID-19, they may return to school when fever and other viral symptoms have completely resolved for at least 24 hours.

Can my child receive prescription or over-the-counter medication during the day?

Yes. However, if your child needs medication during the school day, please be aware that the district has strict policies and follows state mandated guidelines regarding the administration of both prescription and over the counter/non-prescription medications.

For administration of all medicine in school, a child’s caregiver must sign a special permission form. On the same form, the child’s medical provider must provide written instructions to the school nurse for administration of the medication. Your child will be supervised by the school nurse when taking their medicine at the stated time and in the amount prescribed by the medical provider.

Caregivers must provide medication in the original container to the School Nurse. Pharmacy directions on the label may not be altered. Under no circumstances will any over-the-counter medications be given to children without written consent from caregivers and a licensed medical provider.

Parents/caregivers should deliver all medications directly to the School Nurse. Please do not send ANY medication to school with your child. If you are unable to deliver the medication yourself, please contact the School Nurse to make alternate arrangements.

Is it safe for my child to attend school during a pandemic?

This is likely a question on everyone’s mind. Rest assured, through strict health and safety protocols including hand-washing, masking, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning and sanitation, we strive to keep everyone as safe as possible from the virus. However, our collective health relies on individual attention and responsibility. We ask that caregivers please conduct daily health screenings for Covid-19 before children come to school. The single most important thing to do if any of the symptoms of COVID-19 are present is to STAY HOME. Please remember: Keeping illness out of our school buildings helps prevent transmission within them. Thank you in advance for partnering with us in this effort.

What are annual state required health screenings?

According to Massachusetts general laws, all SPS students in grades Pre-K-12 are required to be screened for vision, hearing, and height and weight. In certain grades, body mass index (BMI) and postural screening are also performed. Additionally, a substance abuse screening is conducted  at certain grades in middle and high school.

The schedule for health screenings in school is as follows:

Vision: Pre-K through grade 5 and once in grade 6-8 and once in grade 10

If a student does not pass the vision screening, a referral letter recommending further evaluation by their health care provider or eye specialist, will be sent home. Please contact your child’s health care provider promptly for an evaluation if you are notified that your child has not passed the vision screening. Early detection and correction may prevent problems in school performance and permanent vision loss.  Optimal vision is essential in order for your child to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to maximize his/her educational experience and success.

Hearing: K through grade 3 and once in grade 6-8 and once in grade 10

Students who do not pass the hearing screening are rechecked at a later date, as a decrease in hearing may be related to cold symptoms or congestion. Please contact your child’s health care provider promptly for an evaluation if you are notified that your child has not passed the hearing screening. Early detection and correction may prevent problems in school performance and permanent hearing loss. Optimal hearing is essential in order for your child to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to maximize their educational experience and success.

Growth ScreeningGrowth screening is conducted for students in grades 1, 4, 7 & 10. Heights and weights are measured and calculated into BMI or Body Mass Index.        

Postural: Grades 5 through 9 

Spinal screening is conducted for all grades 5 – 9. Parents are notified of concerns and referred to their child’s health care provider for follow-up.             

SBIRT:  Grades 7 & 10

SBIRT is an evidence-based screening to promote prevention and identify early risk for substance use in adolescents. SPS nurses and counseling staff use the CRAFFT-II screening tool (translations here), which is the Department of Public Health (DPH) recommended substance tool.  Please refer to www.masbirt.org for further information and resources.

Students who report that they are not using substances will have their healthy choices reinforced by the school staff.  Staff will also provide brief feedback to any student who reports using substances or who is at risk for future substance use.  Results of the screening are confidential and will not be included in your child’s school record, nor will the results be shared with parents or any school staff without written consent from the student. If school staff feel there is a potential for your child to engage in risky behavior in the immediate future or identifies a risk to your child’s safety, they will refer them to appropriate counseling staff for further evaluation. All students will receive educational material and a resource list at the time of the screening.

All screenings are performed in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts regulations. Students may also be screened at any time during the year at a teacher or parent’s request. If screening results indicate the need for follow-up care by a healthcare provider, parents/caregivers will be notified through ParentSquare. Parents & caregivers who choose not to have their child participate in a screening should notify their child’s school nurse

Where can I find information about influenza?

Here are some links from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health regarding flu and the flu vaccine.

Flu Guide English

Flu Guide Spanish

Flu Guide Portuguese

If you would like this information in another language, please email afortich@salemk12.org.

How do I know the difference between Flu, Covid-19 and RSV?

Many in healthcare warn of a possible “Tripledemic’ this winter. Covid-19, Influenza (the ‘flu’), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) have been discussed in the media, and understandably, families are concerned. Additionally, due to their high transmissibility rates, it is possible to get one, two, or even all three of these viruses simultaneously. This month’s ‘Health Matters’ explores the differences and similarities among these three common viruses and, most importantly, what you can do to keep your family healthy.

Covid-19

Discovered in Wuhan, China, in 2019, COVID-19 (the ‘coronavirus’) is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As part of the coronavirus family, like many other respiratory viruses, coronaviruses spread quickly through droplets that project out of the mouth or nose when one breathes, coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

Symptoms of Covid-19 may include any or all of the below:

    • Fever or chills

    • Cough

    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

    • Fatigue

    • Muscle or body aches

    • Headache

    • New loss of taste or smell

    • Sore throat

    • Congestion or runny nose

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Diarrhea

    • Those infected with Covid 19 may also not experience any symptoms but can still pass the infection on to others.

Is there a test for Covid-19?- Yes Available at pharmacies or at providers’ offices

Is there a vaccine for Covid-19?- Yes, initial vaccination is available for ages six months and over. Bivalent boosters for ages five and over.

What can you do to help your child feel better?

As with all viruses, they should get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illnesses and can recover at home. You can treat your child with over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), to help them feel better. However, depending on their medical history, some people can become very ill with Covid-19. Please call your child’s healthcare provider and follow their instructions.

If your child tests positive for COVID-19

    •  Isolate them from others in the home to the greatest extent possible.

    • Call your child’s healthcare provider and follow their instructions.

    • Have all family members wear a high-quality mask indoors when around others..

    • Ventilate your home by getting fresh air into your home or filtering the air that is there to improve air flow.

    • Practice good hand-washing, clean frequently used surfaces, and avoid sharing personal household items.

FLU

Flu (Influenza) is an illness caused by a respiratory virus. The flu can spread rapidly through communities as the virus is passed from person to person.

    • Symptoms of the flu typically come on suddenly, which is perhaps its biggest distinction from RSV.

    • Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, tiredness, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, most often in children.

    • Flu symptoms typically develop about 1 to 4 days after being exposed to a sick person.

    • Even otherwise healthy people can get very sick with the flu.

    • The CDC says parents should take their children to the emergency room if they are experiencing fast or trouble breathing, bluish lips or face, ribs pulling in with each breath, and chest pain, among other symptoms.

Is there a test for influenza- Yes

Is there a vaccine for the flu? Yes, for ages six months and over

What can you do to help your child feel better?

Since illness can last a week or longer, children benefit from extra rest and drinking lots of fluids when they get the flu. If your child is uncomfortable because of a fever, acetaminophen or ibuprofen in doses recommended by your pediatrician for their age and weight will help them feel better.

RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that infects the nose, throat, lungs, and breathing passages.

    • RSV is a highly contagious and common illness in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most kids have had an RSV infection by their second birthday.

    • In adults and older children, RSV is typically a mild illness very similar to the common cold. In infants and the elderly, the symptoms can be more severe.

    • Symptoms include a runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing.

    • Most RSV infections go away within a week or two, but parents/caregivers should call their child’s healthcare provider if their child is having difficulty breathing, not drinking fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms.

    • The symptoms of RSV tend to come on slowly within 4 to 6 days after becoming infected.

Is there a test for RSV- Yes

Is there a vaccine for RSV-NO

What can you do to help your child feel better?

To help your child feel more comfortable, begin by doing what you would for any bad cold:

    • Nasal saline with gentle suctioning to allow easier breathing

    • Cool-mist humidifier to help break up mucus and allow easier breathing.

    • Fluids

    • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if older than six months) to help with low-grade fevers.

    • Encourage rest

What can you do to prevent these illnesses?

Now is the time to call your medical provider and schedule flu and/or Covid-19 vaccines/boosters. It’s never too late to vaccinate! Also, please remember the benefits of frequent hand-washing or sanitizing, fresh air (even in the winter), and masking to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets in health maintenance. Avoid large gatherings, or consider wearing a mask for added protection. Stay home if you feel unwell. To prevent the spread of possible illness, test routinely for Covid-19. Finally, if you or your family member develop sympto


For more information please contact:

Jane Morrissey MEd, RN
Director of Nursing and Health Services
29 Highland Ave. Suite 115
Telephone Number: 978-740-1291
jmorrissey@salemk12.org