RSS’ COVID-19 helpline open until Thursday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 29, 2020

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools has a helpline open until Thursday to give families information about COVID-19 while kids are out of school.

The district announced the temporary line at the district Board of Education meeting on Dec. 14. Families can call in to get information from RSS staff.

Moody noted many school districts are going all virtual for the first couple of weeks after holiday breaks due to concerns about a spike in cases following holiday family get-togethers.

“People were very concerned about it, and we are too,” Moody said.

Moody said the district has stayed in weekly contact with Novant Health infectious disease staff and the Rowan County Health Department has also been helpful, but everyone is struggling to keep up and this was a way the district felt it could help if people were not sure who to call during the break.

“Often people will call the school,” Moody said. “If people’s power gets turned off, they call the school and ask for help or information because we’re often the provider of information for many families and a trusted source. We’re also one of the first agencies that offers help.”

Moody said families were getting the best information from school nurses and would call in often for advice while schools were open.

Lead school nurse Sharon Beck said school nurses are integral to the county public health system and serve as liaisons between families and the health department.

“We wanted to ensure that this avenue for communication remained open for parents and staff during the two-week break,” Beck said.

The district plans to survey staff and make a recommendation on whether classes can begin in person on Jan. 4 before the scheduled Jan. 6 beginning of classes. Moody said the district may consider the body of calls to the helpline as part of the decision as well.

“It was mostly to be proactive for families because they trust the information coming from school nurses,” Moody said.

County health officials say they anticipate spikes 10 to 14 days after family gatherings. Numbers climbed quickly in the weeks following Thanksgiving as well.

RSS Director of Student Services Carol Ann Houpe said the district will use the information it gets via the line, but ultimately it is intended as a way to help the community.

Nurses can answer questions like what to do if a child has symptoms, gets tested, a positive diagnosis or comes in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

“We really have no way of knowing how many calls we get, but just felt like it was something we should at least offer our families,” Houpe said.

The district hired more additional student health services staff just for the 2020-2021 school year. Houpe said most of what school nurses and health room staff are doing is COVID-19-related in addition to their regular jobs of helping with non-coronavirus health issues.

“It is the No. 1 thing they are working on,” Houpe said.

Students took daily screenings before they arrived at school. Houpe said sometimes reported symptoms are COVID-like, but they may be diagnosed with an unrelated childhood illness such as an ear infection and are allowed to return to school.

The help line can be reached at 704-630-6125 and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Thursday.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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