By DONNAMY STEELE | Special to the Reporter
ALABASTER – With students and staff back in the classroom across the Alabaster City School system following winter break, head nurse Jennifer Garrett wanted to share tips on how to stay healthy and safe throughout the rest of the school year after last year’s spring semester ended two months early due to COVID-19.
Garrett said keeping schools in session and students and staff healthy as the semester begins is a top priority for her.
“Our goals are to keep our students and staff healthy and well for optimal learning,” Garrett said. “We’re following the Alabama Department of Public Health school tool kit where they put out updates, then we put out a plan in our roadmap and update that with the health department’s updates.
“What we’re doing is continuing to follow that plan and that includes wearing masks, social distancing, not letting our guards down.”
Cooperation from students and staff has helped the school year run smoothly thus far, Garrett said. She said she is hopeful that this trend of self-monitoring and quarantining when needed will continue throughout the spring semester for a strong finish to a trying school year.
“The community and staff have been doing great with self-reporting and not coming to school or work sick,” Garrett said. “We also offer the option, if parents aren’t comfortable yet, of virtual school. We are doing our best to keep everyone well and healthy, but at the same time, the learning environment is really important to us.”
There are a number of ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within schools. The most effective way to stay on top of the virus, according to Garrett, is by checking for symptoms and self-monitoring at home.
“We encourage everyone to self-monitor at home, take temperatures, look out for signs and symptoms if you don’t feel well and go see your healthcare provider,” she said. “Wash your hands, clean surface areas, keep your distance from others, and stay away from those who are sick.”
Garrett also said that when students or staff are forced to quarantine, whether from contracting the virus or because of exposure, following the quarantine guidelines is key.
“In following quarantine instructions, that helps us to keep the kids in school,” she said.
The current quarantine guidelines are to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and follow a 10-day quarantine period with no symptoms remaining when you come back.
If you are in close contact—within 6 feet of someone for more than 15 minutes—you should quarantine for 10 days for close contact as well.
Numbers and percentages have been consistent throughout the school year, but have remained fairly low according to Garrett.
During the most recent update from the ADPH’s COVID-19 schools dashboard, ACS had 53 total cases of the virus.
Parents and students can self-report and stay up to date on COVID-19 by using the Alabaster City Schools website or by visiting the ADPH website and using the schools dashboard.
A weekly newsletter is also sent out by the superintendent to parents and students to keep them informed.
ACS has a self-report link on the school system’s home webpage, or they can also call the local school or nurse for questions.
“We have done well and stayed pretty consistent,” Garrett said. “When we send out our numbers, we use percentages and they stay low. I contribute that to the community, staff and students for doing their part.”