Harrisburg schools use technology to track student health

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A school in Harrisburg is using technology to monitor the health of students and track the spread of disease.

Premier Arts and Science Charter School has been using the technology for four years. School nurse Sue Saintz said it’s been a useful tool for both her and her parents to keep kids healthy, especially during cold and flu season.

The technology includes a “smart” thermometer. Alysha Marshall, a parent, uses it to make sure her 7-year-old son, Na’Deir, is feeling well.

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“Here’s this guy, he’s going to have a fever and go lay down somewhere without even telling me,” she said.

This is not an everyday thing.

“I would use it to track if he had a fever every day, or if he had a fever every four hours, or whatever,” Marshall said.

However, this thermometer is not your ordinary thermometer. The app, which is connected to Marshall’s phone, allows her to record not only Na’Deir’s temperature, but other symptoms as well.

“If I’d been keeping track of it, I’d hit save,” she said. “Cough, runny nose, fever, chills, things like that.”

Her son’s school is the Premier Arts and Science Charter School in Harrisburg, part of the national Kinsa FLUency program.

“It gives [parents] an additional tool to manage their child’s illness or health,” said school nurse Sue Saintz.

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Saintz said the program is free. Kinsa provides thermometers; parents just need to use them. The children’s symptoms then appear in the nurse portal.

“Here, I get notifications that fevers are up, we have more kids with fevers, stuff like that,” Saintz said. “So it gave us a reminder to, well, let’s be more diligent.”

Saintz said it’s especially important now because she’s seeing more sick kids in the wake of the pandemic.

“We’re wearing masks, we’re social distancing, we’re keeping kids apart, we’re washing our hands every few minutes, stuff like that, and now we’re taking all of that away,” she said.

For parents like Marshall, the plan is yet another tool for coping with the upcoming cold and flu season.

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“If I have all the information, I can take it to the doctors so I can give them some solid information that they can look at,” Marshall said. “It’s very beneficial, so you can track symptoms and patterns in your home.”

Saintz said the school is seeing more and more families adopt the technology every year, but it’s still a small percentage. She hopes to get the message out to more parents and encourage them to get involved.

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