School nurse Rhonda Valdez is on the front lines of student health at Wheat Ridge High School, treating myriad concerns — flu outbreaks, diabetes, severe allergies, body image issues, football-related concussions.
The job is rewarding and keeps her busy, but the longtime registered nurse and 18-year veteran of Jefferson County Schools is taking on a new role this fall. Valdez is among a vanguard of state-certified school nurses, social workers and counselors hired this year to try to keep marijuana out of the hands of youths.
The new positions are funded by a $9.2 million grant parceled out among 42 school districts and charter schools by the Colorado Department of Education. Money is going to districts and schools that are near legal pot shops and have created evidence-based plans to discourage underage use of marijuana, said Jeremy Meyer, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Education.
The legalization of recreational pot in Colorado in 2014 for anyone age 21 or older increased…