School nurses understand the risk of being the first visit when a student or staff member falls ill upon the relaunch of in-person instruction in September.

They just don't want the risk to be any greater than it has to be.

"We're not sure if every school is ready and has secured the personal protective equipment that's necessary. They are in competition with healthcare facilities," Dorian Vicente, president of the New Jersey State School Nurses Association, told New Jersey 101.5.

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"We're ready to go in, we know the risks, but we need to be protected," Vicente said.

Other crucial ways to help keep people safe on school grounds, she added, include the proper handling of isolation areas for potential positive cases of COVID-19 — which are required by the state — and a community of parents and caregivers who are knowledgeable about the rules of re-entry for students who've shown symptoms, tested positive, or come in close contact with a confirmed case.

The association spoke out in support of Gov. Phil Murphy's recent executive order that lets schools begin the 2020 academic year online-only if they cannot adequately meet the state's health and safety standards for battling the coronavirus threat. The association said the move will give districts extra time to procure supplies and obtain further guidance.

A remote-only start has already been chosen by select districts in New Jersey. Most districts will begin the year with a hybrid model, allowing for both in-person and online learning through the use of rotating schedules.

"We feel very confident that we have enough personal protective equipment for all of our nurses," said Victor Valeski, Superintendent of East Brunswick Public Schools.

Valeski said the district has been working to acquire equipment since in-person learning stopped in March.

Isolation rooms in the district's schools, he added, are in close proximity to the nurse's office and have ventilation systems allowing for outgoing air to flow outdoors. The district has required that parents or caregivers designate an individual who can respond to a school within 30 minutes should a child be symptomatic.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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