JEFFERSON — It feels strange to be looking back at the “school year that was” when a very different “school year to come” is occupying so much of her attention, said Jefferson school nurse Lynn Zaspel.
“So much of my time right now is spent looking forward to what we’re going to do in the fall,” said Zaspel, who is employed by Fort HealthCare and works with the Jefferson schools via contract. “I live and breathe COVID-19.”
When the district moved to online instruction due to the pandemic-related school building shutdowns this spring, Zaspel no longer was needed for the day-to-day student medications and emergencies.
However, she has been a key part in the district’s planning process as it updates policies for staff and students with an eye toward returning to face-to-face instruction in the fall.
And this summer promises to be very active as Zaspel lends her expertise to a whole variety of issues while the district updates its policies and procedures to reduce risks during the ongoing pandemic.
“I will be working over the summer to plan for the fall,” the school nurse said.
However, her report to the Jefferson school board Monday mainly dwelled on the traditional portion of the school year — that is, before students were sent home for spring break, not to return to the school buildings for the rest of the school year.
This marks Zaspel’s 17th year serving the school district of Jefferson through Fort HealthCare. She is contracted for 32 hours of work per week, and she has the support of another school nurse who worked an hour per school day at Sullivan Elementary School to assist a student with diabetes during the lunch period.
One of Zaspel’s areas of responsibility is managing and compiling records on student immunizations. She said Jefferson has an extremely good overall compliance rate for immunizations at 99.83 percent.
Some 95 percent of students meet the minimum requirements set by the government. There are, however, a few exceptions, including 11 students who have received no vaccinations whatsoever, Zaspel said.
The district records four students with health waivers who cannot receive vaccines for various health reasons. There is one student with a religious waiver whose religion prohibits vaccines. Meanwhile, 69 students have “personal conviction” waivers.
Zaspel said she is trying to “chisel away” at these last two categories by persuading families to get their children immunized not only for their own sake, but to boost “herd immunity” and to prevent dangerous outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year, as it has in the recent past, the school district also hosted a fall flu-shot clinic, located at West Elementary, with 75 students taking part.
“That’s double what other districts are recording,” Zaspel said.
The Jefferson district also hosted vision screens and hearing screens this past year.
Zaspel said that in cooperation with the Health Occupations Students of America club at Jefferson High School, the district trained some 30 upper-level high school health occupations students to do the basic vision screens at the elementary schools. A total of 889 students were screened, with 80 referred on for further testing by Zaspel herself or an eye doctor.
Twenty-six new vision prescriptions resulted, with three students taking advantage of vouchers that funded eyeglasses/care for those in need.
For the hearing screens, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s graduate-level speech pathology students worked with the Jefferson schools to do initial screenings. A total of 207 students received hearing screenings and of those, 12 were referred for further exams. Six required intervention or treatment (for example, for an ear infection.)
Again this past year, the district worked with the Community Dental Clinic and Wisconsin Seal-a-Smile to provide free dental exams, sealants, fluoride treatments and referrals for students in the second-, third-, sixth- and seventh-grade Participating were 126 students whose families signed them up on a voluntary basis; of those, 38 received sealants, while 36 were referred for further care for tooth decay or other problems.
“It’s a huge benefit for these students,” Zaspel said. “I’d love to see those participation numbers go up. We do see such a great need with our kids.”
Moving on to overall student health concerns, Zaspel said that of a total enrollment of 1,852, the Jefferson schools had 672 students on record with a health concern, from Attention Deficit Disorder/ADHD (214 students) to asthma (174 students) to Type 1 diabetes (eight students), to severe allergies (40 students) to students who have experienced seizures or have a seizure disorder (41 students) and more.
The district is required to keep track of health room visits, but because these are overseen by the school office personnel who are busy with many other tasks, they still go underreported, Zaspel said.
However, school personnel are really trying to log all of these visits and reporting is getting better, she said.
East Elementary School recorded 400 health room visits this year, West Elementary School 642, Sullivan Elementary School 277, Jefferson Middle School 370 and Jefferson High School 556. Last year’s summer school recorded 119 visits.
The school nurse also oversees student medication administration, although Zaspel can’t be everywhere at once, so other school personnel are trained to administer this process in each building.
Students in the district this year recorded 2,252 scheduled medications, 295 as-needed medications, 268 inhalers, 587 doses of insulin with assistance by staff members or a registered nurse, and one emergency medication, totaling 3,403 doses.
Some 79 students have doctors’ orders filed with their school for emergency medications.
Staff members have been trained to administer various oral medications, epinephrine auto-injectors (for allergies), glucagon injections and nasal doses (for diabetes), Diastat rectal (seizure) medications, Buccal (also for seizures), Nalozone Nasal (for opioid overdose in a student or visitor to the schools), inhalers for asthma, nebulizers (for asthma, cystic fibrosis and other diseases), and Solucortef (for cancer).
Zaspel said that every school has an emergency team trained to give certain emergency medications. In addition, the district wants all of its staff members trained on the use of a non-harmful Epi-Pen for allergic reactions or suspected allergic reactions.
Zaspel noted that in the case of a field trip, away from the school and its trained emergency teams, it’s still quite possible for a student to experience a severe allergic reaction, for an example from a bee sting, even if that student previously was not known to have an allergy. In that case, having an Epi-Pen on hand and knowing how to use it could be a life-saving measure.
In another life-saving measure, last August, the Jefferson schools trained 172 staff members in “Stop the Bleed” procedures so that students or others who suffered a serious injury on school grounds could receive immediate care.
This could prove vital in the event of a school shooting, for example, or even a “shop accident,” Zaspel said.
The district now has 40 bleed-control kits distributed throughout its schools in eight wall-mounted cabinets and in emergency team members’ “Go Bags.”
“We hope to train the rest of the staff in January,” Zaspel said.
Moving on to goals for the 2020-21 school year, Zaspel said that, obviously, the top priority must be “trying to somehow control COVID-19.”
After that, the district aims to complete all stop bleed training, and she has the personal goal of trying to reduce the number of students with vaccine waivers.
“That will be hard this year,” Zaspel acknowledged. “Right now, in this pandemic, people are afraid to take their healthy child to the doctor ... but well-child visits is when you get immunizations.”
Wrapping up her annual report, Zaspel said that she had the feeling her report for the 2020-21 school year would look “a lot different.”
Weighing in, board members commended Zaspel for her dedication to training, recordkeeping and everyday care as well as the way she has stepped up to assist the district during this pandemic with the most up-to-date and expert advice regarding COVID-19.
Board member Terri Wenkman said that she is so happy to have Zaspel on board, along with the panel of fellow school nurses serving every school district in the county (Johnson Creek and Milton finally joined Fort HealthCare’s consortium of school nurses this year.)
Wenkman said that the district would be looking to these health-care professionals to guidance and relying on the expert information they have at their fingertips to guide in planning for the next school year.
Donna Bente, school board president, also conveyed her gratitude, saying it was nice to see these experts in their field working on behalf of the local schools and all of the students and staff members.
“No one is saying ‘I know everything’,” Bente said, commending the collaborative efforts of the consortium and their dedication to seeking out the most up-to-date, expert information, to guide their actions and district policy and procedures.