Wyoming — Amy Kamphuis feels a touch of nostalgia for days spent tending scraped knees and bellyaches.
“I used to say 90 percent of my job was an ice pack, a Band-Aid and a hug,” said the registered nurse, who has worked in the district as the medical specialist for five years. “My job looks totally different this year.”
The majority of Kamphuis’ time before the district pivoted to remote instruction Nov. 13 was spent tracking data, contact tracing and calling parents whose children had been identified as a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. She divided her time between all nine district buildings, visiting at least three each school day, though she often had to go where she was needed most.
Now, she’s busy working from home, continuing to communicate with families and updating the district’s return-to-learn plan in preparation for when in-person instruction resumes, currently scheduled for Monday, Jan. 18.
Kamphuis has had an extremely busy first semester. One of her biggest tasks was compiling data on students in quarantine. In particular, she tracked who was exposed at home or in the community compared to who was exposed at school.
“More people seem to be contracting the virus outside of school,” she said prior to the pause of in-person learning. “To my knowledge, out of the several hundred across the district who have been quarantined because of a close contact at school, I don’t know of any that have actually come down with the virus during the quarantine period.”
She has also been working with the district’s COVID-19 response team since last summer, when they began preparations for school to reopen. The response team works closely with the Kent County Health Department and Kamphuis serves as the liaison with families to share information.
That involves a lot of communication with parents. “I am on my phone most of the day,” Kamphuis said. Many of these calls this fall were to inform parents that their child should be quarantined and not return to school in person until 14 days after their potential virus exposure. She also fielded calls from parents who tested positive and wanted direction on what to do with their children.
In the case of a quarantined student, she gave parents their expected return-to-school dates and documented those in the school system. If students were quarantined but not ill, they were expected to keep up with their classes virtually.
In early November, Kamphuis was braced for her workload to increase even more as case numbers climbed. That was before the district officially shifted to full remote learning on Nov. 13, with plans to remain so through Jan. 15.
“The data is certainly trending up and (experts) are predicting the next one to four weeks in Kent County is going to get pretty bad,” she said. “We are getting more and more cases every day — more people being exposed and having to quarantine.”
Working to Calm Fears
Sarah Earnest, assistant superintendent for employee relations, said Kamphuis has been instrumental this year in helping things go smoothly — not only by doing the necessary work, but also in the way she does it: “calming fears, lessening anxiety and answering any questions (families) have.”
“Amy has been a tremendous asset this year as we engaged in our COVID response plan,” Earnest said. “She supports our school secretaries, administrators, students and families, relieving their concerns, walking through symptoms, COVID response and questions. She uses her medical knowledge and expertise in all of her interactions, but it’s more about the personal connections she makes with our families, our students and our staff that stands out.”
While the job is overwhelming, prior to the shutdown, Kamphuis said staff members in each school help her keep information straight.
“Our secretaries are doing an amazing job of keeping great records and keeping track of everything,” she said.
West Elementary administrative assistant Barb Gallert said the feeling is mutual.
“Having Amy here is so awesome because there have been many times where I’ve had to have her come over here for situations that I know I am not able to take control of,” said Gallert. “I’ve needed her expertise on lots of things. It’s nice having a nurse that can meet the needs of our school, especially during COVID.”
Traditional Nurse Responsibilities Too
When school resumes to in-person learning, Kampuis will still wear her regular nurse’s hat along with her coronavirus duties. She has a list of parents who need to be notified that their children are behind on vaccines, a job she is now doing from home.
“Because of COVID and all the doctors’ offices shut down, we have a large number of kids that are not compliant with their immunizations right now,” she said. “Routine maintenance and health things kind of got pushed to the back burner for the past seven months.”
Her normal in-school duties also include managing paperwork for students who take medication at school and helping students who need immediate attention with things like rashes or scrapes. When school buildings are open, sick children go to isolation rooms in each building, where a designated staff member — at West Elementary, it’s a behavioral interventionist — screens them. This means her role doesn’t involve as much day-to-day interaction with students as in the past.
Pre-pandemic, Kamphuis said students were encouraged to stay in school if they had minor aches or pains.
“My goal, 100 percent, was to keep kids in school. That goal this year has totally flipped. Now (if) you complain about something, you’re going home.”
Kamphuis said she misses being the Band-Aid giver, the hugger. “Those are the kinds of things I miss.”