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Chester County Press

School immunization change has some parents scrambling

08/15/2017 11:13AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

A change in the state school code regarding immunization requirements is creating a last-minute scramble for some local families. The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board addressed the issue at their Aug. 14 work session, hearing from Sally Palic, the nurse at Patton Middle School.

“We have a database that we use to enter immunizations based on documents from the physicians of our students,” she said. “Each student has a paper medical chart and an electronic chart as well. This summer, the database was updated, and some of the incoming kindergartners and other incoming students popped up in this database as not compliant for this school year.

“The fourth polio immunization is a new requirement,” Palic continued. “That affects every student, from kindergarten through grade 12. Seventh grade has the tetanus shot and the meningitis requirements, and grade 12 has the meningitis vaccine. Those are the ones that are new and causing some non-compliance issues.

“Since mid-July, our nurses have been re-checking the database with the paper documents that we have, and we've searched the Pennsylvania system that has immunization records, to double-check,” Palic added. “At this point, all the families of non-compliant students have been notified by the nurses through letters sent to their homes. We're looking at about 25 students in each elementary school, 36 at the middle school, and about 120 at the high school.”

Follow-up phone calls to the families are planned, Palic said, but the clock is ticking.

“In the past, we've had an eight-month grace period,” she said, “Usually by April, we have these issues wrapped up.” The new guidelines state that students must meet immunization regulations by the third day of school, or face consequences, which could include suspension from school.

Assistant district superintendent John Nolen said, “Our principals would be very involved in this. No one wants to hear that their child will not be able to attend school, but that may happen for a few students. We will work to make sure that number is as small as possible.”

Palic added that the district will still accept immunization deferrals based on medical, moral or religious reasons. Guidelines for immunizations are posted on the district website (www.ucfsd.org).

The board also discussed the implementation of later school start times this year. The goal is to allow teens to get more sleep, and the district has delayed school starts by 15 minutes. New bus pick-up times and school start times are posted on the district website.

Rick Hostetler, the district's supervisor of buildings and grounds, discussed a fee proposal from Alban Engineering for HVAC design at Hillendale Elementary, at a cost of $133,800. “This cost is part of our 10-year plan,” Hostetler said. “The system is old, from the days when the building was a museum.” He said the project will go to bid at the end of the calendar year.

The long-discussed issue of safety along Route 82 in front of the middle school and high school was examined by Jeff Simpson, the director of public works at East Marlborough Township, who was part of a recent meeting between township officials and the school district.

“The township has had concerns raised over the years about safety on Route 82,” Hostetler said. “In one area, it's five lanes wide. The township is looking at potential federal grant money to cover the cost of construction, if the design work is paid by the township. Early estimates for the design work are about $180,000. The township is asking if the school district could split that cost, hoping that the grant will then cover the project.”

Simpson showed concept illustrations of what the new crosswalk area would look like. He said that while crossing guards help during school arrival and dismissal, the community also uses the school grounds and facilities, so pedestrian traffic is still substantial at other times. He said the design calls for eliminating the de-acceleration lane in front of the middle school to allow an extension of a sidewalk there.

“A crosswalk would be placed in the same location,” Simpson said. “A center island median could be driven over, but the intent is not to do that. There will be an overhead mast arm with a crosswalk sign on it, and post-mounted flashing beacons on the ground. We're looking at almost a $1 million project, but with the federal money, they would cover 100 percent of construction costs if we come up with $180,000 for the design.”

The deadline for the grant application is Sept. 22.

School Board president Victor Dupuis asked if local funding could be sought for part of the design fee, and Simpson agreed that the Longwood Foundation could be a source of funds.

Dupuis also asked about reducing the speed limit on the road. The limit varies along the route, from a low of 30 miles per hour, “to 45 miles per hour, which for some reason is right in front of the school,” Dupuis said.

The board will vote on whether to join the cost-sharing plan at their September meeting.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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