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Kannapolis school uses technology to keep students healthier

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — As temperatures drop, one Kannapolis elementary school is taking a smart approach to fighting germs.

Jackson Park Elementary school was selected as one of 500 schools nationwide to participate in the “FLUency” program run by Kinsa, a smart thermometer company. As part of the program, every Jackson Park family will receive a free smart thermometer.

The thermometer, and the app that comes with it, allows parents to see what symptoms are going around the school.

“The goal of this is to really decrease sick time at school so you can maintain a healthier school,” Alisha Palmer, school nurse at Jackson Park, said.

Normally, if a child has a mild fever or stomach ache, a parent may send them to school, regardless. But by logging into the FLUency app, parents can check and see if those symptoms have been reported by other parents — if they have, families can make an informed decision to keep a child home and stop the spread of illness.

“I figured this was a great way to not only stop the spread of the germs before they hit the school but also a way to empower the parents,” Palmer said.

The thermometer also anonymously records high temperatures to create a school data sheet. Parents can also anonymously post notifications in a discussion board that will be sent to the whole group — this can quickly notify the entire school when flu season starts or an illness sweeps through the student population.

Families can also use the app to create a profile, visible to only them, for each family member that will track and keep a record of illnesses

Palmer said that one of the reasons she applied for the program was because she noticed a large number of families sending their children to school just for a temperature check — they didn’t have a thermometer at home, the child would explain. But while they were at school, the illness would spread.

Palmer said that only about 100 families had a received a thermometer as of yet, but the school is already seeing a difference. Recently, she said, the school had a bout of vomiting and fever.

“And we actually saw people staying home,” Palmer said.

Normally, a parent might send a child to school and Palmer would have to send them home when their symptoms worsened, she said.

The thermometer can be plugged straight into most phones to synch data, and it can also make small recommendations about whether parents should hydrate, use medicine or seek medical attention. The app also allows parents to log symptoms or take time-stamped photos of symptoms like a rash in order to share with a family doctor.

“Sick days are disruptive to learning, challenging for parents who must find childcare, and costly to schools that are already struggling with strapped resources,” Kinsa founder and CEO Inder Singh said in a press release. “In addition to the disruption, it is heartbreaking for both parents and kids when the household is hit with the flu. Since the thermometer is the first thing a parent reaches for when their child falls ill, we designed Kinsa to be smarter, capturing symptoms earlier, and providing guidance on what to do next. We are thrilled to offer select schools a tool to keep more children healthy and in school.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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