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New PFT Report: COVID Safety Protocols and Necessary Course Corrections

September 21, 2021

PHILADELPHIA—In response to numerous concerns reported by school nurses, teachers, and other school staff, the PFT issued two surveys to analyze the issues and offer recommendations based on feedback from school nurses and our entire membership.

Access the report here.

One survey, which took place from September 14-20, 2021, was a member-wide survey completed by 4,250 members. The second survey, for school nurses only, took place from September 15-20, 2021 and was completed by 97 school nurses.

The responses are a glaring indication that a series of course corrections, including those for which we have previously advocated, must be immediately implemented.

The survey of school nurses revealed the following:

  • Nearly 19% of school nurses report a drop in nurse allotment for their building this school year.
  • Nearly 28% of school nurses do not have COVID testing supplies.
  • Nearly 18% of school nurses do not have adequate 'extra' PPE like gowns and gloves.
  • Nearly 27% of school nurses report the absence of a medical waiting room for symptomatic students.
  • Nearly 53% of school nurses report that they are conducting contact tracing alone.

In open feedback, nurses indicated extreme levels of stress and the untenable nature of their current workload. Nurse commentary included the following, and is expounded upon in the report:

  • "The School District of Philadelphia is putting my nursing license at risk every day I go to work."
  • "I need help. The current working conditions are unsafe and are not sustainable."
  • "I've never been more stressed than I have this year. I feel like I'm drowning without a boat, life preserver, or paddle."
  • "We need solutions and additional help expeditiously as the health of our students are at jeopardy."
  • "It is not realistic and/or possible for one person on any given day to do what is being asked, we need assistance to even come close to what is needed. I do my best everyday to prioritize and critically think and make difficult decisions. I work at home at night and on weekends, I come in early and stay late. I try to utilize all my resources but they are so slim."

Our general membership survey revealed the following:

  • Nearly 18% of members report that student mask protocols are not in place or enforced. 
  • Roughly 91% of members have operational air purifiers in their workspaces/classrooms.
  • 34% of members report lack of operational/filled sanitizing stations in common areas.
  • 20% of members report lack of District-supplied sanitizer in their workspaces/classrooms.

On the report, PFT President Jerry Jordan said, "It is clearer than ever that we are at a health and safety precipice in our school buildings. The commentary from our school nurses should serve as a stark reminder to the District of what is at stake. I have been in communication with District officials about our concerns, and we will continue to push for urgently needed resolutions to these very serious issues."

Our recommendations include the following:

  • Implementation of asymptomatic students testing
  • Increasing the number of School Nurses
  • Providing additional supports for School Nurses, both in terms of support staff and compensation for extra hours worked
  • Immediate provision of ample testing supplies delivered directly to School Nurses
  • Clarification of symptomatic student protocols
  • Better coordination with PDPH on contact tracing
  • Clarification, reinforcement, and implementation of mask protocols
  • Posting of accurate, timely, and comprehensive data on the District’s COVID dashboard
  • Improved communication from central office to School Nurses and to the entire school staff
  • Improved communication from central office to parents
  • Assistance from central office in obtaining student testing consent forms
  • Implementation of online student testing consent forms
  • Provision of adequate and frequently replenished hand sanitizer in classrooms/work spaces and common areas
  • Provision of adequate PPE, including extra masks, and additional PPE for specific situations
  • Monitoring of air purifiers for filter replacement needs

Jordan concluded, "It is incumbent upon the District to act with urgency, and listen to this alarm sounded by healthcare professionals and other school staff. Amidst a global pandemic and surging cases, including an increase in cases among children, it is absolutely paramount that the District takes these concerns seriously and acts on the recommended course corrections." 


Access the report here.

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