EASD students return

By , on August 30, 2017

Though many not yet compliant with new vaccination rules

Ephrata Area School District students began school Monday, Aug. 28 — a day earlier than last year.

Something else arrived earlier this year for students: new vaccination rules.

The grace period for receiving all mandatory vaccinations has changed from eight months to five days, a concern of some import for the district.

“We’ve been very proactive in directly contacting the parents who need to provide updated immunization records for their students,” said Sarah McBee, Ephrata Area School District spokeswoman.

Still, as school began Monday, EASD had more than 200 students who’ve not completed the paperwork.

After the grace period, students have to get the shots to attend or, if they need sequential doses that cannot be completed within the grace period, a form from a doctor certifying that the doses have been scheduled.

“It’s really too early to predict how many — if any — will be affected,” said Sarah McBee, Ephrata spokeswoman. “As school officials continue to process the incoming immunization documentation on a daily basis.”

The new guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health have made it mandatory for high school seniors to receive one dose of meningococcal vaccine by the first day of twelfth grade.

If they received a dose at age 16 or older, that counts for their senior dose.

The new vaccination rules have been a concern for other districts.

For instance, students in the Columbia school district had to meet the deadline by last Friday since it started school Aug. 21. Going into the opening week of school, more than 100 students had not completed the paperwork. As of Tuesday, 35 Columbia students face second day of no classes due to the new immunization requirements.

McBee said families in the district were mailed letters in June and received phone calls and e-mails in the days leading up to the first day of school.

“Additionally, the new immunization requirements have been available on our website since the state implemented the new regulations,” she said.

According to the new law, EASD students who have not provided the proper immunization documentation by Sept. 5, will not be able to attend school as of Sept. 6.

“Parents and guardians who have any questions are encouraged to contact their student’s building principal or school nurse,” McBee said.

Ephrata Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop discussed the new requirements for childhood immunizations put forth by the state Department of Health earlier this year at Monday’s school board meeting.

In previous years, health regulations allowed a child to be “provisionally” admitted to school even though the child didn’t have all the required immunizations, and gave the parents eight months to get those immunizations before the child faced exclusion from school, according to the PA Dep’t. of Health website.

Troop said finding a “middle ground” might have been just as effective as the radical change to five days.

As it is, parents are doing a lot of scrambling, since a deadline is attached to the regulation.

“Doctors’ offices are getting swamped,” Troop said.

Many parents are calling their child’s school to find out more about the state requirements.

“Students that don’t have the appropriate vaccinations or paperwork documenting that they have an appointment to be vaccinated by Sept. 6 will not be allowed to attend school,” Troop said.

The school has no choice but to abide by the state health regulations, he said.

“It’s just the first day of school, so we’re hoping that those numbers decrease significantly in a short time,” Troop said.

Most of those awaiting a vaccination were upper classmen, while the majority of the elementary-aged children are properly vaccinated, he said.

Seventh graders must also have one dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) and one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) by the first day of seventh grade.

If parents have questions, they should call the principal of their child’s school or the school nurse, Troop said.

Concerned parents fall into three categories; either they have all their documentation and the child has been properly vaccinated, or they can show documentation that they have an appointment set up with a physician, or they have completed an exemption form.

“Without proper documentation, state law requires that we do not let them into school,” Troop said.

Exemptions can be for medical reasons, religious beliefs, or for a strong moral or ethical conviction, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

Waivers, to give extra time, are possible if the child is homeless, if the child’s records are unable to be located due to a disaster, if a child transfers to another school, or if there is a national shortage of the vaccine.

The new regulations were made known to the public in March of 2017 to provide time for schools and parents to comply, according to the department’s website.

The new recommendations come from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an advisory committee of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If parents still have questions, they can contact the state’s Division of Immunization at 717-787-5681.

In other school board meeting news: Troop said the first day of school went well, despite bridge construction in the community that presented “a set of challenges” for bus drivers.

“Classrooms were humming with energy and excitement — and a little nervousness — with everybody excited for the first day of school,” Troop said. “All in all, it was a smooth Day One.”

Last week was “Launch Week,” with teachers making final preparations for their classes, Troop said.

“It takes a true team effort and our team is among the best around,” Troop said.

  • Both Troop and board president Timothy Stayer spoke about the possibility of property tax relief and what that might mean for school districts.

“How will the state fund education?” Stayer asked.

Property tax reform seems to be the “talking point” that doesn’t go away, Troop said, even though no current legislation is addressing the problem.

“People don’t like the continuing rise in taxes, and from our perspective, the biggest (reason for the) increase is driven by the increase in PSERS contributions and pensions,” Troop said.

PSERS is the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System.

The percentage of the increase of funding to PSERS in the past five years is larger than the increase in taxes for the same time period, Troop said.

“The PSERS increases we have to pay is always more than Act One allowable taxes,” Troop said.

Other districts are probably feeling the same pinch, he added.

“I’d like to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans to include an addition to pension reform to help us control those costs,” Troop said.

As it is now, PSERS funding can’t be separated from property tax increases, Troop added.

  • Troop introduced two new staff members to the board; Brian Booher and Dennis Dankenbring, both of Manheim Township.

Booher will serve as acting assistant principal at the high school, taking over for Laura Mandell, who is out on maternity leave.

Dankenbring is the district’s new director of maintenance.

  • Troop also shared that the district’s marching band has the largest number of musicians since 2006, and credited the leadership of Steven Goss, who took over as band director three years ago.

Marching band camp was held earlier this month, when it was learned that the Mountaineer band now has 67 musicians and 28 visual members. The band also has new uniforms, which will be unveiled at the first home football game this coming Friday.

In recent years, Goss has changed the band’s focus from less competitions to more community festivals and that move is paying off in increased participation, Troop said.

Instead of being critiqued and criticized by competition judges, the band members are having fun performing, Troop said.

“It’s more of a team atmosphere and building a community and that’s what it’s really about,” Troop said. “Mr. Goss wanted to increase numbers and we’re glad to see he’s doing just that.”

2 Comments

  1. Cypher

    August 30, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Time to just say NO to these insane medieval mandatory chemical injections. Those at the top making these rules are not themselves subject to them.

  2. scott fickes

    September 13, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Vaccines have NOT been proven safe!
    Vaccines are not tested to the same standards that most drugs are!
    The mercury content in expired vials requires hazmat disposal!
    Is this what we want for our children?
    Please, let’s get more assurance and better science before starting a mandatory program.
    Doctors are supposed to: “first, do no harm”.
    Can this be said?

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