U-46: Students must get immunizations before school starts

Elgin-area school officials say next school year they will uphold a rule that bars students who have not received their required vaccinations by the first day of school from attending classes.

In years past, officials at the state's second-largest school district have excused students who didn't have all their shots when school started.

Next school year, families that don't comply will be turned away, said Tony Sanders, CEO of Elgin Area School District U-46.

Current district policy requires a student to be immediately excluded if he or she hasn't been vaccinated by the opening of school.

Students enrolling for the first time in U-46 who do not meet the compliance requirement would be given a two-week grace period before evidence of vaccination is required. Students who register after Oct. 15 would have 30 days to comply with the regulation.

“We are going to live by that deadline,” said Sanders, adding it's important to uphold the first-day exclusion policy in light of increasing cases of mumps and other infectious diseases that could be prevented if students were inoculated.

Officials said they plan to keep reminding parents about students' immunization requirements through letters, Facebook updates, emails and on-site events.

U-46's policy is more stringent than state law, which requires students to provide proof of health examinations or completed immunizations by Oct. 15 or by an earlier date determined by the school district.

School board members Veronica Noland and Jeanette Ward called for a revision of the district's policy to mirror state law and eliminate the first-day exclusion.

“I am a parent who had to deal with this last year,” Noland said. “I was glad that we didn't hold hard and fast (to that rule) this year.”

In situations where parents simply forgot to get their children vaccinated, it may be difficult to schedule appointments with their pediatricians immediately, she added.

“We are doing a disservice to our students,” Noland said.

District administrators said they will work with families to cause minimal disruption.

“The goal is to have students in class as soon as we can,” said Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

Another update to the district's health services involves the use of epinephrine injections for emergency treatment of anaphylaxis.

Jeff Judge, U-46 health services supervisor, said the district carries four backup injections in each of its schools for students with allergies who might run out or their injections have expired. However, district personnel are not allowed to administer the injection to students who have no known allergies, even in emergencies, unless it is prescribed by a physician.

“We are moving toward getting undiagnosed EpiPens in our district, as well ... working with a physician to obtain a general physician's order for the entire district,” Judge said.

The $649 cost for an injection could be prohibitive, but “companies are offering free pens with programs,” Judge added.

“I only know of five cases this year. It's pretty rare,” Judge said of students who have gone into anaphylactic shock at school. “We're very fortunate our families and students are very educated on their allergies. Hopefully, we can minimize that to zero.”

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