JACKSON – The district has seen an increase in vaping/electronic smoking during the last year and the health risks of vaping in youth have been recognized through national studies, officials said at a recent Board of Education meeting.
The issue was brought up during a recent presentation of the nursing department. Board member Thomas Colucci asked about the increase of vaping in the school district to which Superintendent Stephen Genco responded, “yes we’ve seen smoking in bathrooms.”
“There is real harm in vaping by those who vape for just a short period of time,” Assistant Superintendent Dan Baginski said.
“Do we keep track of trends?” Board member Gus Acevedo asked in reference to both vaping and opioid use in the district.
Baginski said the district initiated protocols “two years ago by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Genco said that in cases where a student is believed to have been involved vaping or any illegal substance, a nurse “will make an evaluation. Vape shops say they don’t cater to kids but most adults don’t smoke flavors like cotton candy tobacco.”
During Baginski’s presentation he outlined the duties of the district’s nurses. Those duties include reviewing health and medical information to meet state requirements, mandatory reports on immunization and communicable diseases and implementing individualized health plans for students with complex health problems such as diabetes, asthma and life-threating food allergies.
School nurses must maintain their certification in CPR and the use of defibrillators. “Two of our nurses are CPR trainers and we run multiple drills in case there is a case of a cardiac attack in the schools,” Baginski said. District nurses also coordinate health outreach and referrals for students and their families.
Baginski said that while the district wants to see nurses attend to students with needed health issues during a given school day, “I have talked to nurses about the need to reduce frivolous visits. We also have a tier of four categories.”
The Crawford-Rodriguez Elementary School which has a population of 702 students experienced 6,773 visits to their nurse during the school year of 2017-2018 and 9,328 during the school year of 2018-2019.
The Elms Elementary School which has a school population of 665 also saw an increase in nurse visits from 8,395 in 2017-2018 to 10,611 in 2018-2019.
Holman and Johnson Elementary Schools saw a decrease in visits to the nurse during those same years. With Holman, which has 553 students going from 7,945 to 7,246 and Johnson, with a student population of 467 going from 5,039 to 4,343.
Switlik and Rosenauer Elementary Schools however increased in nurse visits. Rosenauer with 316 students jumped from 5,753 to 6,092 and Switlik with 749 students had a larger increase going from 6,490 to 8,675.
While the Goetz Middle School also saw a large increase with its student population of 1,135 going from 7,928 visits to 11,720 the Christa McAuliffe Middle School which has a student population of 856 saw a decrease going from 10,521 visits to 7,564.
The district’s two high schools, Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty, both saw increases. Jackson Memorial has a student population of 1,621 rising from 10,430 to 13,242 while Jackson Liberty with a student population of 1,166 jumped from 12,731 to 16,658.
Baginski said he believes the increase in visits were due to a new system of swipe ins by the student ID cards. “That is why there is a big jump. Every visit by a student is swiped in.”
The presentation also explained the definition of the four nurse acuity levels. Level 1 is nursing dependent which requires skilled nursing services on a frequent/daily basis and involves seeing students with diabetes, life threatening allergies, poorly controlled asthma and complex mental health/behavior issues.
Level II has major nursing involvement and requires close monitoring of the student. The nurse in most cases must perform a skilled nursing procedure that no other professional is able to perform in the school including major motor impairment that necessitates the skilled professional nurse, assisting with toileting or other personal care functions, seizure disorder history, respiratory impairment and concussions.
Level III involves moderate nursing where skilled professional school nurse monitors the student occasional, usually addressing comfort or function such as food restrictions, cancer survivors, homebound, those students with a mental or behavioral component.
Level IV has minor nursing involvement with students’ physical and/or social-emotional condition that is currently uncomplicated and predictable. Occasionally, the student may require monitoring for things such as headaches, first aid, minor illnesses, and orthopedic conditions. This category includes the majority of the school population at any given time.
The district noted 480 Level 1 cases, 740 Level II cases, 2,860 Level III cases and 4,150 Level IV cases.
Baginski’s presentation concluded with four points of emphasis for the 2019-2020 school year which began this week.
Those points included the implementation of the district’s Opioid Antidote Policy for high schools which the New Jersey Department of Education recently published guidelines for, creating a uniform approach to managing student homebound instruction, streamlining the process for identifying health concerns on field trips and supporting district initiatives related to the prevention of substance abuse and vaping.