SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– It was a career she always aspired to be in, but now Judy Holmes and her fellow Syracuse school nurses are at their breaking point. 

“We stand here today because we can no longer provide high-quality care for our children in our schools because of the demands of the COVID pandemic and the failure of the Syracuse City School District to respond to our concerns,” Judy Holmes said at the Syracuse City School Board of Education meeting Wednesday night. 

Homes spoke during the public comment period, painting a dire picture for the school board of their day-to-day reality. 

“SCSD is facing a critical shortage of nursing staff. Nurses will regularly cover more than one school due to a lack of substitutes willing to work for the district and due to constant vacancies. Health aides are left alone in school buildings to care for children in the absence of nurses. School buildings are left uncovered and children are cared for by administrators.”

Judy Holmes, school nurse and STA Unit 10 President

She said the critical staffing shortages coupled with constant COVID tasks have created an unbearable workload that just got heavier after the Onondaga County Health Department announced it will no longer be handling contact tracing.

“It used to be I’d tell my parents you will hear from the health department with your isolation date or quarantine date… but now we are responsible to do it all,” Holmes said.  

Holmes said this latest change in protocol is what ‘broke the camel’s back,’ adding that school nurses can’t even perform routine tasks like physicals and vision screenings because they’re on the phone contact tracing. 

“Nurses call me up and tell me like they feel like they failed their children because they cannot keep up and nobody’s listening to nurses.”

judy holmes, school nurse and sta unit 10 president

Hoping now their message comes through loud and clear.