FULTON — Due to challenges in complying with state regulations, Palermo Elementary School recently experienced a precipitous drop in the rate of fully vaccinated students, but district leaders say they’ve addressed the challenge head on with positive results.
Officials from the Mexico Academy and Central School District (MACS) told The Palladium-Times that the issue was addressed by the spring of 2018 when approximately 99 percent of the student body had been immunized.
From 2013 to 2016, MACS reported to the state health department 100 percent immunization-rates for students in all five district school buildings. At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, this rate dropped to a 62 percent rate of students who were completely vaccinated against all major diseases at Palermo Elementary School, according to the state Department of Health.
The school had rates of vaccination against major diseases that were significantly lower than the rest of Oswego County schools as well as federal guidelines.
Sean Bruno, superintendent of Mexico Academy and Central School District, told The Palladium-Times on Monday that the district struggled to get the entire student body fully vaccinated due the process of communicating state mandates to parents and compelling them into the doctors’ offices.
All but one Palermo Elementary School student was fully vaccinated by the end of the 2017-2018 school year, according to Bruno.
“The question isn’t who’s to blame,” Bruno said. “Whenever there are new mandates (from Albany), it can be difficult to get the information to parents. The question is, how can we work with parents to make sure they get updated?”
Parents were notified of the changes “as soon as possible,” and they made appointments for their children to be vaccinated, but were challenged to get children to see their family physician “due to insurances,”according to Bruno.
“So, for me it was this — do you either force kids to stay out school or do you work with parents till they get in,” Bruno said. “I chose to keep children in school while we continued to work with parents throughout the school year.
By the end of the 2016-2017 school year, all students but one were completely immunized, and for the current 2018-2019 school year, all students are completely vaccinated, according to Bruno.
Bruno told The Palladium-Times that he met with the Palermo Elementary School health staff Monday afternoon to prepare for a more concerted effort in immunizing students moving forward.
“The intention of the changes is a positive thing and we obviously support kids being healthy,” he said. “The question is, how can we work with parents to make sure they get this information?”
The next lowest vaccination rate in the county was the Central Square Central School District’s Hastings Mallory Elementary School, where the overall vaccination rate was 90.4 percent during the 2014-2015 school year.
Central Square Superintendent Tom Colabufo said new state mandates also pose challenges to district officials from year to year, though the district has been “very lucky” in their efforts to get students into the doctor’s office to be inoculated against major diseases.
“I may be experiencing something other districts other don’t deal with, and that could be totally flipped by the next year,” Colabufo said.
Since the 2014-2015 school year, when the Department of Health reported that approximately 1 out of ten students of Hastings Mallory Elementary School were not fully vaccinated, has seen school and district-wide rates upwards of 95 percent.
Colabufo attributed this success to Oswego County’s school districts working together, because of the transient nature of each school’s student bodies.
“With any types of changes, I think we do a good job both as a district and as a county,” Colabufo said. “We have so many kids that are transient, we try to take care of all of them because we know they might be in our district at some point in the future.”