New Jersey School Professional Earns National Accolades for Work During Pandemic



Lisa Bell, RN, BA, CSN, has been recognized by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) for her pioneering work in school nursing throughout the pandemic. 


Bell, a certified school nurse with more than 45 years of experience, is the school nurse at Chapel Hill Academy in Lincoln Park, NJ, a state-approved private special education school. She was recognized by NAPSEC for her work organizing school nurses to develop policy and protocols to support students with complex disabilities as they returned to school during the pandemic.


In the winter of 2020, Bell organized a small group of school nurses working at state approved private special education schools to start planning how to get students with disabilities back into schools safely. There were special considerations based on the needs of the student population, from medically-fragile students, to those with autism and psychiatric disabilities. 


“At that point, no one thought it would be months, let alone years, before we found a new ‘normal.’ We just knew our students needed to get back to school as soon as possible, not just for the academics, but for the social and therapeutic components as well,” said Bell.


Throughout the pandemic, school nurses became policy leaders and interpreters of ever changing local, state and federal guidance. Through frequent Zoom meetings – sometimes three times a week – the school nurses group grew to more than 100 nurses. Together, they shared challenges, solved problems, helped create policies, processes, and re-entry plans, and coordinated efforts to secure PPE, which was often in short supply in the early days of the pandemic. 


“We supported each other every step of the way,” concluded Bell.


Chapel Hill Academy and a small handful of other state-approved private special educations schools were approved by the State to open for educational services in July, making them the first schools in New Jersey to re-open. 


NAPSEC honored Bell with its “Related Services Provider of the Year” Award for 2021. A resident of Lincoln Park, Bell studied nursing at Caldwell College (now Caldwell University) and Mountainside School of Nursing. She is certified as a nephrology nurse and a certified Operating Room Nurse. She is a member of the National Association of School Nurses and the New Jersey State School Nurses Association.


“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by NAPSEC for this national award,” said Bell. “I was just doing what needed to be done.”

Chapel Hill Academy, a member of ASAH, is a New Jersey approved private school for students with learning, social, emotional, and behavioral disabilities in Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students are placed by the local school district and attend at no cost to parents. To learn more, go to


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