As a two-week grace period ended recently for students to comply with new state vaccination regulations, Williamsport Area School District reported that some did not do so, forcing them to miss school time.
The new regulations require students in all grades to receive a second dose of immunizations for mumps and chicken pox. Seventh-grade students also are required to receive a dose of meningitis vaccine and one for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis. The only exceptions were for religious or medical reasons.
Although all other county districts reported students were in compliance, Krista Fagnano, department chairwoman for health services at WASD, said the district had five students who missed one day of school because they didn't have their shots.
Fagnano said students missed May 14 but received their vaccinations in time to report back in the classroom the following day.
"We do notification (of required vaccinations) every 60 days. Maybe they forget and they're too busy and it creeps up on them," she said.
While WASD had to turn students away, other districts said a two-week extension helped their students get the required vaccinations.
"We had a couple of close ones," said Dominic Cavallaro, Montoursville Area superintendent. "The extension helped us out. If it wasn't for the extension we would've had to send a few home."
School districts said they began sending out correspondence to parents and guardians last summer to inform them of the new state regulations.
"Starting last school year we started informing parents in writing and posted it on our website," said Montgomery Area Superintendent Daphne Ross.
"(School nurses) started early in the summer," said Dr. Mark Stamm, South Williamsport superintendent.
East Lycoming Superintendent Michael Pawlik said the letters and phone calls over the summer helped to cut down the list of students needing vaccinations when this past school year started.
"We had fewer than a handful of students (needing their vaccinations) going into the school year," he said.
Loyalsock Township also reported that it didn't have a problem having students comply and had no need to worry as the deadline was approaching.
"Up to that point (two-week extension) we were done," said Christina Herman, director of student services. "We didn't really need that two-week extension."
Dr. Portia Brandt, Muncy superintendent, added that with the new regulations if any parent needed help, the district was more than happy to help with the paperwork. She said the district explains to parents, "It's not our law, it's the law.
"We don't want to make this difficult, we just want to get it done," Brandt said. "We give them the nudge and then the calls go out (if the students don't receive required vaccinations)."
Most districts reported having some students go right up to the deadline before getting their vaccinations.
South Williamsport had at least three students who still needed to show proof of vaccinations the week of the deadline, but all did so without being removed from school, Stamm said.
"Once it got down to crunch time, the principals got involved (by making phone calls)," he said.
For Montgomery, school nurses made the phone calls home to make sure the deadline was met.
"Our school nurse identified the students who weren't in compliance and contacted them personally," Ross said.
Fagnano said their school nurse also made phone calls to the parents leading up to the deadline, but five still missed one day because of noncompliance.
Although Judy Morlock, certified school nurse at Jersey Shore Area Middle School, said the state Department of Health helped the district get the required doses, Brandt said some Muncy parents allowed the district to take care of the vaccinations.
"We actually get permission from the parent to take the kid to get the immunization," Brandt said.
Brandt also said the district has made it so there are "no excuses," for not having the required vaccinations.
"If it's going to keep their child in school, (the parents are) usually pretty agreeable," she added.
Robert Grantier, Loyalsock Township superintendent, called it an "ongoing process" to make sure students are up-to-date with vaccinations.
Herman said the process will continue as districts need to make sure seventh-graders get their extra shots.
"That's going to be something that every kid going into the seventh grade is going to need," she said. "It's going to be every year. If they have a sixth-grader they're going to need it."