These frontline workers are keeping our schools healthy


RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — School started yesterday for 50% of Rapid City students. With COVID-19 affecting communities and now classrooms, school nurses are as important as ever.

Sateera Thompsen has been a school nurse for 35 years. She is now the district’s health services coordinator, and says this school year is different than anything she’s experienced before.

“Our day-to-day routine is triaging kids, taking care of kids, trying to do our very best to be sure the kids are safe and healthy while at school, and our staff members,” Thompsen said.

At Corral Drive Elementary, Kerry Leighty is one of the nurses on the front lines. She says teachers are keeping a close eye on students. If they notice a child has symptoms, the teacher alerts the school nurse.

“Then, if I feel that the student is symptomatic or showing some of those symptoms, then they will go to our waiting room. It may just be for further assessment or if we’ve made the determination that they need to go home, then that’s when they will wait until a parent can pick them up,” Leighty said.

The student cannot come back to school without either a doctor’s note or negative COVID-19 test result.

The nursing department at the Rapid City Area Schools in previous years was made up of about 12 staff. Now this year, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, they’ve added 12 new positions.

In addition to more staff, you can find COVID-19 signs all across the schools.

“We also set up the waiting room so the kids are physically distanced, so that they have access to hand sanitizer, and they have a secure place to wait while their parents come to pick them up, so yeah we did a lot this year,” Thompsen said.

“It’s been an interesting start. This team of nurses is amazing and have been working really really hard to prepare for students, not just the last three weeks but really the majority of the summer,” Leighty said.

Now that school is in session, the district is hoping all of those preparations pay off.

The Rapid City Schools Health Services says it’s important for parents to keep their kids home if they are sick or showing symptoms of the virus.

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