Washington state law requires students to be immunized before they enter school.
If only it were that simple.
South Kitsap School District nurse Susan Anderson, who oversees East Port Orchard, Mullennix Ridge and Olalla Elementary schools, in the past estimated that 150 among the approximately 1,500 students on her campuses are not compliant with immunizations.
Anderson helped spearhead a program in 2008 that offers free immunizations to anyone from birth to 18 years old. Through Group Health, it runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday during the Back to School Celebration at South Kitsap High School’s track.
According to Dave Colombini, SKSD assistant superintendent for educational services, the district also will give out approximately 250 backpacks filled with school supplies, as well as items ranging from food to haircuts. She said all of it has been donated by individuals and businesses.
This is the only time where the district has free immunizations available, but Anderson said parents can schedule an appointment with Kitsap County Health District or Mary Bridge Children Express in Gig Harbor if they cannot attend the Back to School Celebration.
Anderson recommends that parents keep records of immunizations because “every child has a different requirement.” But she added that it would not be harmful to a child if they inadvertently received shots again. That occasionally happens in SKSD, Anderson said, when children in military families come from overseas as those records often are received late.
Children can be exempted from vaccinations through a doctor’s signature. Anderson said there is a high rate of exemptions in Washington with some resulting from religious affiliation and others because of a purported link to autism.
Anderson said that exempted children also run the risk of missing school because they must be held out if there is an outbreak of one of the illnesses, such as measles, mumps and rubella.
Back-to-School Celebration Saturday at Joe Knowles Field
The South Kitsap School District’s Back-to-School Celebration is set 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 16, at the Joe Knowles Field at the high school.
About 5,000 people attended last year’s event. This year’s event will include free haircuts, dental checkups and immunizations, along with vendors, activities and live entertainment.
Vendors tents will include preschools, daycares, colleges, dance studios and sports groups and organizations. Synergy Dance, the South Kitsap High School marching band and Just For Kicks will provide live entertainment, along with a dunk tank and a booth by the Boys and Girls Club.
SKSD teachers will attend booths and tables to talk with parents and students about the upcoming school year. Several businesses and churches will be on hand passing out free school supplies and bags.
A tent will be set up for free school supplies for the different grades, along with table of free clothing available for families.
There also will be informational booths setup that provid information about many of the programs within SKSD.
— Berkley Hassebrock