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Faces of Our Frontline Workers

Faces of Our Frontline Workers
The Hastings High School/Farragut Middle School health office staff.
“We’re holding the fort.” 
That’s what Donna Gillispie, LPN, said when asked how the Hastings-on-Hudson school district nursing team was faring with COVID-19. With nearly two months of hybrid learning completed, Hastings-on-Hudson school nurses are adapting to their new environment. 
Gillispie and substitute nurse Donna Doyle work in the Middle/High School Health Office, ensuring proper hygiene, symptom identification, and in the event of exposure, contact tracing. 
“Pre-COVID, we would see 50 to 60 students per day,” Gillispie said. “Now, we see fewer students but there is much more communication and coordination needed.” 
In addition to the constant preparation and adjustment of protocols required by COVID, the nursing staff continues to handle the usual duties of school nurses. 
“I give kudos to our primary nurses,” said Doyle. “Coming from a hospital setting, I am amazed at the work they do here.” 
Though the nurses are highly trained, COVID has created a new and constantly changing work environment. They praise one another on their painstaking and careful work while crediting the community for making it possible. 
“Parents, students, teachers and staff have been complying with health guidelines, which has allowed us to remain open,” said Joanne Cipollina, RN. The custodians have been so supportive and extremely helpful. And the administration has given us the finest PPE (personal protective equipment) and extra staff to enable us to do our jobs effectively. So, we are very fortunate to work in this district.”
Both teams -- at Hillside Elementary and the Farragut Middle School/High School building -- have found the need to adjust. 
“Our roles have definitely changed since COVID,” Gina Kowalski, RN, primary nurse at Hillside Elementary School said. “I miss the days of putting on lots of band aids.” 
With 11 years in the school district, Kowalski faces challenges head-on and is able to consistently communicate with parents while also responding to the needs of the students and staff at Hillside Elementary School. 
“I feel like our work this year is a lot less focused on patient care and more focused on tracing and tracking,” said Patricia “Tricia” Feeney, RN. Feeney has worked alongside Kowalski at Hillside Elementary for three years and has found connecting to the community to be paramount during the pandemic.  
“The majority of our work is spent communicating with parents, teachers, and staff,” she said.
The entire nursing staff has played a critical role in returning students and teachers to school as well as maintaining the district’s operations. Vital guidelines for the community such as the school reopening plan were created with the help of Sally Anne Cullen, RN. The nurses also keep track of directives and news about the pandemic in order to keep the district ahead of COVID’s curve.
“The flow of information is constantly changing,” said Tricia Chibbaro, nurses office clerk in the Middle/High School Health Office.
Chibbaro and Leslie Cachoian, nurses clerk at Hillside, are also on the frontlines. They organize and coordinate nursing efforts behind the scenes to help ensure the health and safety of the district’s 1,674 students. 
“We couldn’t do anything without them!” said Cipollina. 
Above: Nurse Donna Gillispie demonstrates the use of the health office's full personal protective equipment.
Below: Nurse Joanne Cipollina flips through Hastings-On-Hudson School District's reopening plan.
Hillside Elementary School nurse Patricia Feeney, RN
Hillside Elementary School nurse Gina Kowalski, RN
Office clerk Tricia Chibbaro with nurse Donna Doyle.