Healthy students in safe learning environments
To promote school health and safety, the Health Department:
- Reviews plans for new schools and changes to schools.
- Educates school staff about health and safety issues.
- Conducts inspections.
- Investigates reports of illness and safety hazards.
- School Services Directory—Our programs, services and connections for schools.
- School plan review—Necessary before construction or remodel of any school.
- Keep kids safe at school—Information about school safety, air quality, disease prevention, and more.
- For parents, healthcare providers, and state and local agencies—How to promote healthy families and increase the use of preventive healthcare for our children.
- Reducing health risks for students—Ways to create safe and supportive environments so all young people have the opportunity to learn and be healthy.
What services and programs does the Health Department offer to schools?
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department offers more than 30 programs and services for schools, students, and school staff. Our School Services Directory lists these resources by:
- Programs and services that support student health.
- Resources for school administrators and staff.
- Resources for students’ families and communities.
For more information on school health resources, like immunizations, flu, and sample letters for parents, visit our school health page on our Provider Resources site.
Does the Health Department have resources I can use or display in my classroom?
Yes! We have free posters, stickers, bumper stickers, coloring pages, brochures, and other health-related materials.
To request resources:
- Contact our School Health program at (253) 798-4926 or firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information. We will contact you to find out the grade level and type of materials you want. You can pick them up at the Health Department, or we can send them to you. (Note: Materials are subject to change and availability.)
- You can also contact specific Health Department programs to request materials. See our School Services Directory for program and contact information.
Materials to download or print:
- Child-friendly Stop the Spread of Germs poster.
- Handwashing activity booklets with Health Department grime-fighting heroes Super Scrub and Bubbles help teach children about the importance of handwashing. The eight-page booklet includes quizzes, puzzles, games, coloring pages, and general information about germs. The activities in the booklet are appropriate for children in grades two through four.
Free resources schools can check out from the Health Department:
- Operation Suds is a self-administered, interactive program designed to help educators teach children in grades K through six about the need for handwashing. It takes about 45 minutes, depending on class size. After a brief discussion, students will watch a short animated video then participate in a black light activity to see germs and understand the importance of proper handwashing. Students will learn:
- What germs are.
- Where germs hide.
- When to wash hands.
- How to wash hands.
The Health Department can also provide other handwashing-related materials for educators to help reinforce the message in the classroom. Call (253) 798-6460 or reserve Operation Suds online.
Our school is hosting a health fair. Does the Health Department have educational materials or staff that are available to present?
We have a variety of health-related materials appropriate for table display, and to provide to attendees at your school’s health fair or community event.
- Contact our School Health program at (253) 798-4926, or email@example.com with your contact information.
- We will connect with you to find out more information about your event, including the date, time, and place. We will discuss with you the types of information that would be most appropriate for your event.
- If we can, we would be happy to attend the event and staff a Health Department table.
- We can leave materials at our front counter for pick up or send materials to you.
(Note: Materials are subject to change and availability.)
Can Health Department staff come speak to our school about topics like healthy behaviors, tobacco and vaping, nutrition, puberty, or sexual health?
Presentations to students:
Health Department subject matter experts may be available for classroom presentations to students and student-focused community events on a limited basis. Most presentations are not ready-made. We tailor them specifically for your students. We consider presentations on a case-by-case basis. Contact the persons and programs listed in our School Services Directory to ask about topic-specific presentations.
Presentations to school staff:
The Health Department offers the STD/HIV Educator Update Training at least once per school year. Registration is free and clock hours are available. High school and middle school health teachers, sexual education teachers, counselors, and nurses are the target audience for this training, although all K-12 educators are welcome. The Health Department is planning to offer this training online in the near future. For the next training date and location, and for more information, contact Evelyn Manley, STD/HIV Program Coordinator at (253) 798-4447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What grants or funding does the Health Department offer to schools?Specific programs within the Health Department offer funding and grants, when available, to schools. Program staff will notify schools, districts, and community organizations as funding opportunities become available.
What kind of health and safety inspections does the Health Department conduct at schools?
- Food Safety staff inspect school kitchens to make sure food is safe to eat.
- Community Safety staff inspect classrooms, pools and elementary school playgrounds for general safety. They inspect classrooms for air quality. They also investigate illnesses and complaints.
- Pollution Prevention staff inspect school grounds and middle and high school specialty classrooms, such as science, art, and shop, to ensure the proper management and disposal of chemicals.
For questions about health and safety inspections, contact Food@tpchd.org.
Where can our school refer parents with questions about child immunization?
The Health Department partners with MultiCare Health System, Mary Bridge Children's Hospital and Health Center, and Pierce County Immunization Coalition to provide free required and recommended immunizations to children. Services are available across Pierce County, including Tacoma and the South Hill Mall in Puyallup.
Visit our child immunization website for a monthly calendar of community immunization sites and hours of operation. Parents will need to bring their children’s immunization records so the clinics will know what vaccinations they already have and when they received them.
You can also find additional information on our Provider Resources site, including:
- School immunization requirements for the 2017-2018 school year (available in English, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Somali, and Vietnamese).
- Vaccine schedules.
- Calendar of immunization clinics and locations.
- Parent letters.
- Parent access to immunization records.
- Vaccine reminder poster.
- Flu vaccines at schools.
- NEW! An Immunization Toolkit for Washington schools and childcare centers.
If a student has lice, what procedures should our school follow?
The Health Department follows current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address head lice. These guidelines have changed in recent years. Students with head lice no longer need to go home right away and remain out of school until the lice and nits are gone. Students diagnosed with head lice can remain at school and finish the school day.
Immediately after the diagnosis, the school should take these steps:
- The school nurse should instruct the affected student not to share combs, brushes, caps, pillowcases or other items touching the head or worn near or on the head until the student is free from nits and lice.
- The nurse should notify parents or guardians that the student has head lice.
- The nurse should tell the family about appropriate treatment, such as special combs and shampoos to remove nits and lice. Advise the family to begin treatment at home after school.
- The school should allow the student to return to school only if the student has started treatment.
- Parents or guardians need to be diligent and consistent in daily treatment to remove nits and lice.
- The nurse should ensure the family continues treatment until the student is free from nits and lice through periodic contact.
- Parents or guardians should wash items that may have come in contact with the student’s head or that the student wore on or near the head.
Students can return to school as long as they have started treatment. They can remain in school while receiving treatment until they are free from nits and crawling lice.
Questions? Contact Kate Cranfield, school nurse liaison, at (253) 798-2813 or email@example.com.
How can our school and our students participate in the School-Based Oral Health program?The School-Based Oral Health Program is a partnership between the Health Department, schools, and community dental providers. The program offers preventative dental services to students in the school setting. To sign-up or for more information, contact Dawn Jacobs at (253) 798-2945 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What should schools know when a public health consultant needs to speak with a student about a confidential health matter?
The Health Department will test and treat anyone 14 years and older. The state mandates this testing to prevent and control the spread of communicable disease (RCW 70.24.110). During the investigation, public health consultants may contact school nurses and administrators to arrange a private meeting with the student. Minors are able to receive testing and treatment without consent of a parent or guardian.
Questions? Contact Public Health Consultant Supervisor Evelyn Manley at (253) 798-4447 or email@example.com.
Where can schools get information about smoking, electronic cigarette, and vaping prevention?
The Health Department E-Cigarettes and Vapor Toolkit--An Educational Guide for Prevention is an online resource for schools. Information on local laws in Tacoma and Pierce County, as well as Washington’s vapor product law is available on our website.
Questions about youth tobacco prevention? Contact Jessica Alvestad at (253) 377-4242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions about vapor product prevention? Contact Angela Boyer at (253) 442-0352 or email@example.com.
What does the Health Department recommend as alternatives to suspension for students in violation of the school’s tobacco and substance use policy?
Alternatives to suspension can help students stay in school while participating in intervention strategies that promote awareness, behavior changes, and future prevention of substance use.
Look for resources and recommendations in our E-Cigarettes and Vapor Toolkit--An Educational Guide to Prevention in the What Schools Need to Know section.
Questions? Contact Angela Boyer, Vapor Product Prevention program, (253) 442-0352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Washington for adults 21 years and older, what is the Health Department doing to prevent underage use?
The Health Department has received grant funding from Washington State Department of Health to focus on youth marijuana prevention. Our prevention efforts include:
- Partnerships with other local community-based organizations, schools, and school districts to promote policies and strategies that restrict underage use in schools and the community.
- Educational events for parents, youth and professionals.
- Monthly marijuana prevention meetings.
- Distribution of resource materials about marijuana and the importance of prevention.
Questions? Contact Linda Graves, Youth Marijuana Prevention Program, at (253) 320-8495 or email@example.com.