JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s almost time for Onslow County students to return to school.

Some parents have been voicing their concerns about national public health trends, prompting local officials and medical professionals to weigh in on how they’re working to keep students healthy this year.

Dwanna Roberts said she is concerned about sending her kids back to school.

“My daughter contracted COVID twice at school, she’s never not worn a mask,” Roberts said. “My son contracted it one time at school. And he’s never not worn a mask,” said Roberts.

She’s particularly concerned about the large gatherings that happen within a school day, such as lunch in the cafeteria.

“Dealing with a middle schooler and high schooler, I am very concerned how many large events they’re going to have this year,” Roberts said.

“The health, safety and security of our students and staff is always our highest concern. To ensure the most effective teaching and learning environment, we are guided by NC DHHS and CDC guidance, as well as our local BOE communicable disease policy. We will also continue to work closely with our local Onslow County Health Department and continue to report communicable disease information as required.”

Brent Anderson, Chief Communications Officer, Onslow County Schools

Monkeypox cases are increasing nationwide, but Whitney Jezek, a child health and immunization nursing specialist with the Onslow County Health Department, said young children are unlikely to see its effects.

“They’re not in that risk population, the CDC has very specific guidelines and very specific criteria,” said Jezek. “But most of all, the vaccine that they might be seeking is only licensed for 18 and up and they are not in that risk group.”

Jezek added that parents should be booking appointments for their children’s yearly check-ups.

“Make your appointments early, if there’s any kind of issues and you learn that your child needs glasses, you have time to get those glasses before. If your child needs to see an audiologist, you’ll have time to see that audiologist,” Jezek said.

Jezek said students also should be up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations.

“We offer the state-required Tdap, the state required meningococcal, the state-required booster for that meningococcal,” said Jezek. “We also offer hepatitis A vaccine, we offer the flu vaccine if we have it by that time, and we offer the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine.”

Jezek said they will be visiting middle and high schools to administer required vaccines for seventh- and 12th-graders early this fall.

The health department also wants to remind parents that every student is required to have a physical on file if they’re entering a North Carolina school for the first time.

As a new school year gets underway, our nurses will spend time in the classrooms with our elementary age students teaching them the importance of hand washing, cough hygiene and other ways to keep everyone healthy. Throughout the school year, the job of our school nurses includes illness prevention activities. School nurses also communicate with parents and staff regularly regarding our communicable disease policy – especially at the beginning of the year when they see and visit parents at school level “Open Houses.” Our nurses are important in providing parent education, as well – dispersing accurate, evidence-based information, which is easy to understand. Regarding monkeypox, the newest virus of concern, the district’s communicable disease policy requires any person with a suspicious rash be seen by a healthcare provider and a note from the healthcare provider is required for return to school or work. Most importantly, our school nurses, and all OCS staff, work diligently to keep our kids healthy and in school!

Heather Duane, Onslow County Schools lead school nurse