Mark White ES nurse helps foster healthy, safe atmosphere for students

Nurse Janda Jelks’ first year as a school nurse has been unusual and challenging, but she has leveraged her creativity and enthusiasm to excel in her new role.

Jelks, who worked in a hospital before coming to Mark White Elementary School, said her goal is to foster relationships between parents, teachers, and students and ensure the return to face-to-face instruction is as smooth as possible.

“Our priority is making sure kids are getting as much instruction time as they can, either virtually or in person,” Jelks said. “I would hate for something that I’m doing, even though it’s state-mandated, to cut into that. So instead of the students coming to me, I come to them.”

To test students’ vision and hearing while minimizing the disruption of learning, Jelks packs up her audiometer, her vision screening board, and her tape and heads to a classroom. She sets up her equipment in the hallway or finds a small quiet room nearby to screen two or three students at a time before sending them back to class.

Jelks has also adjusted how parents can submit necessary documentation.

“I’m very flexible about parents emailing their students’ updated immunization records or medication orders from their physicians,” Jelks said. “I have a scanner on my phone, so everything’s online. This makes it easy when I need to pull up student files from home.”

Mark White Principal Lisa Hernandez said Jelks is a very good fit, engaging the school community.

“She went to DeBakey High School, and she has come back to join us,” Hernandez said. “Being an HISD graduate, she really has buy-in into what we’re doing here.”

Jelks had to reassure many parents on the first day of face-to-face instruction.

“I told them, ‘Your kids are going to be fine,’” Jelks said. “‘They’re going to be socially distanced and wash their hands at all the handwashing stations that we have set up.”

Some aspects of being a school nurse remain the same; Jelks has already had a few students visit her clinic.

“It’s tummy aches, finger scrapes, ant bites, the normal stuff I would expect from elementary school kids,” Jelks said. “They were very cooperative, wearing their masks and remembering to use hand sanitizer.”

Jelks said she considers socialization to be an essential component of child development.

“Social distancing means you have to be physically far apart from each other, but it doesn’t mean you can’t support each other,” Jelks said. “So, I have no doubt in my mind that these kids are going to thrive and soar this year.”