Superintendent of Oakland Schools Wanda Cook-Robinson tells residents that school will be open for in-person learning this fall at the L. Brooks Patterson Executive Office Building in Waterford June 11.

Superintendent of Oakland Schools Wanda Cook-Robinson tells residents that school will be open for in-person learning this fall at the L. Brooks Patterson Executive Office Building in Waterford June 11.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki


Oakland County nurses help to reopen schools after COVID-19 shutdown

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published June 18, 2020

 Oakland County Health Division Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford has been at the forefront of the county government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oakland County Health Division Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford has been at the forefront of the county government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Along with new backpacks, blue jeans and crayons, don’t forget to add face masks and hand sanitizer to your shopping list.

Back-to-school preparations will look a lot different this fall.

The Oakland County Executive’s Office is teaming up with the County Board of Commissioners, the County Health Division and Oakland Schools to create a multimillion-dollar initiative that will put a nurse in every school through December to help students and faculty acclimate to learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan to hire 68 nurses over the summer, titled the Oakland Together School Nurse Initiative, was announced June 11. Their aim will be to provide communication, training, consultation and recommendations to school districts as kids return to class in August.

“We know the concern the virus has caused among students, parents, school faculty and staff,” said County Executive David Coulter during a press conference. “We are working closely with our partners at Oakland Schools to provide prevention strategies that will allow our schools to resume the important work of educating our young people. We want everyone to have confidence we are doing everything we can to provide a safe and healthy living environment.”

Coulter said he’s asked the board to approve $2 million to back the program, which would be allocated from funds granted via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Commissioner Gwen Markham — representing District 9 in Novi, Novi Township and Northville — said at press time that she fully expects the funds to be approved.

Conceptually, the Oakland Together School Nurse Initiative will employ nurses to assist with screening strategies at facilities and education at the administrative level, and would provide prevention strategies for high-risk families and parents.

They’ll also report back to the County Health Division, so the virus can be accurately tracked and, hopefully, slowed in the event of another outbreak.

What would that concept look like in action?

It’s hard to say, according to Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford. It could include conducting training in hand-washing for students, observing practices in classrooms and making recommendations to instructors, or distributing materials so families can find resources and guidance concerning the pandemic outside of schools.

Outside factors can make a difference in what schools need to contain the spread of the virus. Financing, for instance.

Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, the superintendent of Oakland Schools, noted that hand sanitizer for a school district of 3,000 students would cost approximately $44,000. And no-touch thermometers can be around $85 a pop. That’s on top of a statewide education budget that’s expected to be cut by more than $1 billion.

This is the first effort of its kind in the state, and the plan could evolve as it moves forward.

But one thing that is for sure is that students will be invited back to the classroom this fall, promised Cook-Robinson.

“After the child’s home, school represents the second most influential environment in a child’s life,” she said. “Nurses working in the schools will have a crucial role in supporting health services to children and youth during this pandemic as they will be instrumental in implementing practices that help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”


About 20% of parents polled statewide said they would prefer to keep their kids home this fall because of COVID-19. To accommodate that, Oakland County schools will offer families a remote learning option.

Do you feel comfortable sending your student back to school? Tell us on our Facebook page.

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