Addressing coronavirus fears, chancellor says every NYC school will soon have a nurse

Amid growing concerns about the novel coronavirus, each New York City school will have a nurse on campus by next week — something that advocates have demanded long before the outbreak raised questions about whether schools are ready to curb its potential spread.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza made the announcement Thursday at a City Council hearing but provided few details. 

It’s unclear how many additional nurses would be needed to meet that goal, and whether the nurses will be permanently hired, or work full-time. The education department did not respond to questions about whether schools that share buildings would also share a nurse.  

Still, Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the city’s education committee and has called on the Department of Education to provide nurses in every school, welcomed the chancellor’s announcement.

“DOE nurses are critically important to our schools,” he said. 

The United Federation of Teachers estimates that 137 schools are currently without permanent, full-time nurses or school-based health clinics. Those schools collectively enroll more than 70,000 students, union President Michael Mulgrew said at Thursday’s hearing. Some buildings house multiple schools, however, and the union estimates about 116 buildings are without a permanent, full-time nurse. 

The education department has a system to fill vacancies through temporary staffing agencies, but according to the union, about 25 schools still go without nurses every day. 

Mulgrew said he hopes the new nurses will be hired permanently and on a full-time basis, so they can build relationships with students and have a better handle on their medical conditions. 

“A part-time, temporary worker is not a great solution,” he told Chalkbeat. 

The education department has sent guidance to school nurses that students with respiratory symptoms and fever should be sent home. Nurses are to contact public health officials if there is any concern a student could have the coronavirus. 

For schools that don’t have nurses, the education department recommends giving students a face mask and contacting the child’s caregiver. The student should wait in a room with a closed door, under the supervision of an adult with a mask who stays at least three feet away.