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Staying the course Nurse Timmerman still taking care of students at AIS

Staying the course

Nurse Timmerman still taking care of students at AIS


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 

L. Timmerman

For all the things Lisa Timmerman has learned to live with during a nearly nine-month pandemic, there’s one thing the veteran Alma Intermediate School nurse misses the most — hugs from fourth-graders. 


“COVID has made it very different,” Timmerman said. “For me, it’s made it very sad. These kids, they like to hug. Sometimes they would just run in my room and give me a hug for just a split second, and I’m OK with that. That’s what I love about this age. 


“They like to be loved.”


Kids are still giggling at recess, ambitious fourth- and fifth-graders are playing football, and students are sitting amongst one another at lunch — albeit from afar. 


It’s business as usual at Alma Intermediate School. 


Of course, it’s not the same as it was this time a year ago; it may not be that way this time in 2021, either. 


But as fall color begins to take shape and temperatures start to dip into the 40s and 50s, Alma Intermediate School is still open for business. 


It’s the same across the whole Alma system. 


“I am surprised,” Timmerman said. “I really thought once school started, our numbers would really take off, just because of the way kids are. There’s no way to keep them apart; there is no way to keep a mask on their face. 


“I was giving us a month.”


There are factors as to why Alma schools have remained open: responsible teachers, strict game plans by the administrators, and custodians spraying cleaning mist throughout the school each afternoon. 


“I really have to say, I think our schools have done a great job, especially the custodians as far as keeping everything clean for us,” Timmerman said. “The teachers are really diligent as far as keeping kids apart. The way our schedules have worked out, I think that’s made a big difference, too.


“My building is great, and I think all of the buildings are great, but we have a really good dynamic here.”


Alma schools are in the minority when it comes to school nurses. Not only does AIS have Timmerman, but the other three schools have full-time nurses as well. 


“When I first came to Alma I split my time with the Intermediate School and the Middle School,” she said.


According to the National Association of School Nurses, more than a quarter of American schools did not have a single nurse at all, let alone four. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every school have a nurse on site.


  • According to the NASN, 35.3% of schools employ part-time school nurses with a minimum of 35 hours.


  • 39.3% of schools employ full-time nurses with a minimum of 35 hours.  


That leaves nearly 25.2 percent of schools without a nurse — though to be fair, some districts may share a nurse between three or four schools. 


Alma does not. 


“Our nurses play a very important role,” Alma Superintendent David Woolly said. “They’re the authorities in their schools; the teachers look to them, as is appropriate, because they are the medical authority. 


“One of the nurses said to me this fall they (teachers) get nervous if I’m not there.”


Before the pandemic, less than 40 percent of schools employed one full-time nurse. Now, those overburdened healthcare specialists are on the frontlines of a risky, high-stakes experiment as many schools, including Alma, reopened despite spiking caseloads throughout the country. 


“All of our nurses here, we all get along really well and try to help each other,” Timmerman said. “I really have to say I think we have a great team.”


Like other schools, Timmerman is ready to combat the spread of COVID-19. For now, though, while dealing with a few sniffles and the occasional wounded recess football player, it’s mostly the “stomach bug” that’s sending kids home.

“(But) I have to say, I’ve seen less of it this year,” Timmerman said. “People are being cautious. Hopefully our flu season won’t be bad, either.”


“Lots of things have changed in life,” Woolly said. “Not to say people didn’t get sick; of course they did. Students just have more medical issues than they used to have, and in some cases they are more serious. Part of that is we have students in school that didn’t used to be in our schools that have more significant medical needs. Plus, there are more emotional things in children’s lives that are medical in some degree, and that’s after the routine cuts and scrapes.


“It’s (school nurses) a big deal. If we didn’t have nurses in schools, either a lot of important needs wouldn’t be served, or principals would be doing it.”


Raised in Altus, Timmerman moved to Springdale before her junior year. “That was quite a culture shock!”


It was in Springdale where Timmerman first got the nursing bug. Thirty-nine years later, she’s actually on her third tour with Alma schools. 


“When I was in high school, when I was 16, I took a nurse’s aid course in Springdale,” Timmerman said. “I actually worked at Springdale Hospital before school and every other weekend at the hospital.”