SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A lot of families are nervous about sending their kids back to school.

Would they feel any better knowing your school has a telemedicine program with a direct link to a doctor? One district in southern Arizona is promising families just that.

“I think it helps our parents know that, as a district, we're doing everything that we can to not only provide instruction, which is our job, but also to look at all of the student and all of the family network,” said Melisa Lunderville, tge assistant superintendent of Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District.

Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District is proud of its new partnership with Mariposa Community Health Center, rolling telemedicine out to all their schools amid a pandemic before the kids even come back to campus.

“We know that students, parents and, you know, even the school nurses, they're going to have a lot of questions, so we need to devise an easy way that they can contact a physician,” said pediatrician Dr. Phillip Williams.

Starting next month, the health aide at each school will get a laptop and all the medical equipment you'd need for a virtual visit with a doctor.

“The cool thing is that we can do 80% of the normal-person visits via telemedicine, meaning that we can listen to the heartbeat, ears and throat or we can look at the skin. You know, we can pretty much do everything,” said Williams.

This is especially powerful in rural areas. It keeps the kids in class and parents at work.

The hope is this telemedicine program will increase accessibility and early interventions with behavioral issues as well.

“Sometimes we have those students we call 'frequent fliers,' and they like to go to the nurse. They may have social, emotional issues, and this allows us to have actually a doctor ask some of those questions and then transition that to our counseling department,” said Verdugo.

This whole-child approach to education is more critical than ever before as educators and families cope with COVID-19.

“So, we're doing a lot of positive things that continue through the pandemic to try to meet the needs of our students so they can learn,” said Verdugo.

Mariposa Community Health is supplying all the equipment and training. Each visit will be either billed to the family's insurance or covered with a sliding scale so no one will be turned away.

 

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