Every elementary student in Cabrillo Unified School District can now get a free “smart thermometer” after the district won a grant to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the flu and other illnesses this winter.

CUSD nurse Susan Vana said the district is one of 2,500 in the nation — and the only in the county — to receive the grant. Each of the estimated 800 Coastside elementary school families can get a free thermometer that syncs with a phone application, created by Bay Area technology company Kinsa.

The goal of the program, which is sponsored by Lysol, is to give school leaders the tools to make informed decisions about community spread of a disease. Vana said that after measuring a user’s temperature, the Kinsa app will ask questions about other symptoms and can advise the user to stay home or go see a doctor. The app is available in both English and Spanish.

That data — free of any identifying information in compliance with health privacy laws — is then viewable in aggregate to the district nurse.

With the possibility of students returning to in-person learning in the spring, Vana said the technology could get thermometers to families who need them for the daily temperature checks required for reopening. It can also help her see trends in illnesses and monitor the overall health of the student population she serves.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Vana said “It was written and planned to be around the cold and flu season. Now, of course, it helps with COVID-19 screening.”

So far, around 200 families have signed up for the program, but Vana is working to get that number up. She has been making calls, sending emails and offering brochures at periodic schoolwork pickup days to try to get the word out about the program to elementary families.

She said she’s especially focused on getting the thermometers to families who don’t already have one at home to prepare for the eventual in-person reopening of Cabrillo schools. Temperature checks will be a critical part of the daily screening process, which Vana is developing on a symptom checker website for parents and students to access every day.

As the only nurse assigned to the entire school district, Vana said she has her work cut out for her going into reopening. She is busy implementing the county’s “four pillars” of safety at each district school. That includes creating protocols for cohorts, mask wearing and staff testing once a month. By January, Vana hopes to roll out a telemedicine program in the district specifically geared to sixth through 12th graders so they can see a physician via an iPad for on-site treatment. Plus, she runs the district’s contact tracing.

Vana said, as students begin to return to campus, her role is to work closely with the county health department to monitor and report any potential exposures or outbreaks.

Although the funding and supplies only cover local elementary students, Vana hopes families with multiple school-age children will take advantage of the free thermometers and use them regularly.

“I would have loved to have done the whole school district,” Vana said.

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