As summer continues to unfold, students’ minds are undoubtedly on enjoying their time off before school starts in a few weeks.
However, local school representatives are reminding families that the first day of school is rapidly approaching – and that there are a number of things many families must do to prepare their children for a healthy year.
Vaccinations and health examinations have for years been a requirement for kindergarteners entering the public school system. However, a new state law will require any student entering North Carolina public schools for the first time to undergo a professional health assessment, regardless of age.
“The North Carolina legislature revised the law to require anyone new to N.C. public schools to present a health assessment, in addition to immunizations, which are always required,” said Monica Adamian, coordinated health specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Many students visit their pediatricians annually for “well- visits,” which Adamian said is a perfect opportunity to have the health assessment conducted. Families without a primary care doctor can visit places like county health departments, CVS Minute Clinics and other federally qualified health facilities for an assessment.
The physician or health professional conducting the assessment must fill out a specific form designed by the state of North Carolina. Families must subsequently turn the form into the school where their child will attend. The forms are available on the CMS website.
“A lot of pediatricians are familiar with (the forms), but we recommend, just to be safe, to print it off and bring it with you (to the assessment),” Adamian said.
Most children begin a series of vaccinations as infants, which they continue through 5 years old. An additional two immunizations are required for students entering seventh grade.
Kindergarteners and students entering a North Carolina public school for the first time are required to present proof of immunizations to their school office. Most families can obtain the necessary documentation from their physician’s office. Students who are not up to date on their immunizations are allowed 30 days to provide proof that they are beginning the process of obtaining the required vaccinations.
“A (school) nurse would give (families) notice of the immunizations needed,” Adamian said. “… For (students) that are behind in a series, they could be in the process of getting up to date and still be in compliance with the law.”
Families also should be aware of other health issues at the beginning of the school year, such as sports physicals that are required for fall sports, which also can be conducted at pediatricians’ offices, Minute Clinics and other health facilities. Families also must coordinate with their school nurse if their child takes medication that must be administered during school hours, and Adamian urges families to notify their school nurse of any health issues their child might have.
“If a child has a medical concern or is diagnosed with a health condition, notifying school and letting nurse know is a great practice,” Adamian said.
She added, “If a child needs medicines administered throughout the school day, there’s a form that has to be completed by a doctor giving specific instructions on how and when those medications should be given.”
Adamian said all students should take steps to ensure their health and reduce the spread of illnesses during the school year. Precautions include students washing their hands frequently and staying home if they have a contagious illness.
“If somebody’s sick, although nobody wants their child to miss school, it’s best to let kids stay home, recover and not be contagious,” she said. “They’ll ultimately miss less school if they can rest and recuperate.”
Tips for staying healthy during the school year, courtesy of Adamian:
– Wash hands frequently, especially before eating and after sneezing, coughing or visiting the bathroom.
– Practice coughing and sneezing and coughing into the crook of your elbow.
– Stay home if you are sick, especially if you have a fever.
– Do not share hats, brushes or hair pieces, as they can cause the spread of head lice.
– Make sure you are up to date on all immunizations.
– Get to know your school nurse and make sure you address all health concerns.
– Have a health assessment done if entering kindergarten or a North Carolina public school for the first time.
– Have your physician fill out a form for any medications that need to be distributed during school hours.
Find more information, including the required vaccinations and health assessment form, at www.cms.k12.nc.us/cmsdepartments/csh/HealthServices/Pages/Immunization.aspx.