School Health



Because summer is officially in the air, parents and children are acutely aware that the start of school is just around the corner. Bedtimes will need to be adjusted, alarms will need to be set, and organized chaos will soon be the norm once again.

Parents know that several forms will be sent home the first week of school needing signatures and information. It is important to complete these forms so the school health team can best address any issues or emergencies that arise. We need emergency phone numbers, who we can and cannot contact, and what medical conditions exist. This is how we can educate the staff who may recognize any issues and react in the best possible manner. Please remember to update contact information with the schools if there are changes.

There are other issues to address as well. Parents and students need to be aware of the current guidelines we follow regarding any illness in our Florida schools. Effective earlier this month, staff and students now have the same policies in our state. Anyone who has symptoms of illness and/or a positive test can end self-isolation when 5 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and no fever (for at least 24 hours) without the use of medications. For clarification, symptom onset is day zero, 5 full days home, and return to school on day 6. Students may return sooner with a negative diagnostic (not home) test and NO symptoms OR with a note by a medical provider. Students exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine as long as they have no symptoms. Masks are not required.

We have learned a lot about our approach to illness in schools because of COVID-19. However, the basic approach to illness has not changed. We have always encouraged individuals to stay home with symptoms of illness to prevent getting others sick. We all benefit when we are healthy.

 All students are required to be current with their immunizations. Reviews have been ongoing, and notifications have been made to both parents and schools. Vaccines are available to all children with no out-of-pocket cost at any Florida Department of Health location. Appointments can be made by calling (305) 293-7500. Any parent wanting a religious exemption can only do so by making an appointment and getting it at the health department.

In general, students are not allowed to carry medication with them in school. All medications must be cleared by the school nurse and kept in the clinic. Certain life-saving prescription medications can be carried with prior approval and documentation.

Our school nurses and healthcare techs monitor for illness, identify health concerns, refer to providers for follow-up, give guidance, coordinate services, and provide accurate information to parents and families. Please feel free to reach out with concerns and questions. We look forward to a happy and healthy school year!

Dana Portillo is a nurse of 23 years and the school health coordinator for the Florida Department of Health-Monroe.

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