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Community profile: School health care providers encouraged by cooperation from students, families

Sopris Elementary School health aid Terri Hailey and school district health aid trainer Yvette Blanc stand in the hallway of Sopris Elementary School.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

It was a team effort to keep schools in the Roaring Fork District open for in-person instruction this year.

Terri Hailey, a student health aid at Sopris Elementary school in her 12th year, said everyone has done their part — teachers, faculty, students and parents included — and it often required completing tasks that weren’t necessarily in one’s job description.

“The way everyone has come together and made this work no matter what their role is in the school, for instance our principal emptying the trash or having her direct traffic,” Hailey said.



Yvette Blanc, nurse for the Roaring Fork School District, is in charge of training health aids in the district and coordinating with the public health department to establish regulations that will keep schools’ doors open and those who enter healthy to the best of their abilities.

“I think the most challenging part about keeping the kids and staff safe and healthy at school is that the challenges around the virus are so many unknowns,” Blanc said. “We are very aggressive with complying with public health guidelines and it results in us requiring so many kids (having to stay) home even when they’re well.”



Both women agreed students are very cooperative when it comes to social distancing and wearing masks. Recurring issues they experienced with students not wearing masks often came down to if the family was able to afford the same resources. In these instances, especially if a student tested positive for COVID-19 and did not have health insurance, they worked to counsel families and provide long-term solutions.

“When we find there’s symptoms, we do have a very strict protocol on which kids can stay in school and which kids go home … and if they do not have a doctor or if they do not have insurance, we work with them very closely with our family resources liaisons to see if they qualify for services and to find out the best way and financial fit for their needs,” Blanc said. “Because our priority is not just that they have this coronavirus taken care of, it’s that they establish a long-term relationship with a medical professional to insure that they have increased care beyond COVID-19.”

Sopris Elementary School health aid Terri Hailey and school district health aid trainer Yvette Blanc walk out of Sopris Elementary School.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Blanc said a silver lining is that all of the added precautions will help to reduce cases of the flu in addition to minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“We’re optimistic and … we heard from our Tri-County Public Health partners yesterday that there’s been a significant reduction in the number of flu cases that they’re seeing up to now even in our community,” Blanc said last week. “We believe that the protocols we have in place right now will reduce a lot of the other viruses we commonly see in the public school systems as well.”

Another rewarding part of working through this school year is being able to see how people will lend a hand when it is needed, Hailey said.

“I think that the biggest thing for me is that people step up,” she said. “They will step up, children especially, but then older people … I just am so impressed with our teachers, our administration, everyone, our janitors … they’re amazing; they’re doing triple the work they used to. Everyone is, and no one’s complaining because we’re doing the right thing. I’m so thankful to Rob Stein that he’s determined to keep the schools open.”

Hailey added that, while these are scary times, she tries to be an encouraging person instead of a fearful one. Her message to parents of students in the school district is one of gratitude and appreciation of the positives of the situation everyone is currently in.

“My advice would be to take advantage of it. I have five kids that are all gone now and I think about time wasted … if this had happened to me when I had children it would be so hard. But I hope I would be the kind of parent that would just try to see the positive in it; like, wow, these are moments, hours, months that we got to be together,” Hailey said.

jpeterson@postindependent.com


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