Laurie Reed, nurse manager for the School Health Program, said starting the school year out on the right foot begins with staying healthy. Reed said it is important for parents to make sure children have an annual physical exam with a primary care provider to make sure they are healthy and have what they need to be successful in the classroom.
For students entering public schools for the first time, a health assessment is required by a physician within 12 months of starting school. Reed said providers need to fill out a form and have it submitted to the school.
“If their child has had a physical in the last year, it may just be a matter of taking that form to the provider’s office to have them complete it,” Reed said. “If they haven’t had that physical in the last year, it’s really important that they go ahead and reach out to their child’s doctor to get that appointment scheduled.”
Additionally, she noted the importance of students being up-to-date on their vaccines to help keep them in school. Reed said there are specific vaccines and boosters for children as they reach kindergarten, 7th grade and 12th grade, all of which should be part of their annual physicals.
Reed said it’s important to understand that these vaccines and boosters are all part of keeping young students healthy and in the classroom.
“These are actually diseases that are still out there and that children actually could get if they don’t receive vaccines,” Reed said. “Of course, in a school environment where children are in close conditions, it’s a public health concern if we would have a student that would come down with one of these illnesses. If other students are not vaccinated, then, of course, then it could it could spread within a school setting. Generally, just for their overall good health, it’s just very important that students are receiving their vaccines on a routine basis.”
Reed encouraged families to contact their local school nurse or the Maynard Children’s Hospital for more information.
School bus safety
Another important aspect of back to school safety focuses on our roads.
Ellen Walston, Injury Prevention Program coordinator at ECU Health Medical Center, urged motorists to use caution when driving near school buses and in school zones.
Walston said that distracted driving is a problem and to combat that challenge, some modifications have been made in school zones in the area. These updates include mounted speed boards and flashing beacons at crosswalks to alert drivers to pedestrians.
“It is really important that we emphasize distractions within school zones and any time that you’re driving,” Walston said. “Students are also distracted when they’re walking to and from school. So any education we can provide around that is important and that applies to the driver as well as a pedestrian.”
Richard Hutchinson, director of transportation for Pitt County Schools, said it’s crucial for drivers to follow the law and stop when a bus is at a pick up or drop off spot to keep children safe.
Hutchinson shared that over 3,000 stopped school buses are passed each day in North Carolina and this creates a risk for children. He asked that drivers follow the law, stop and wait for the school bus to continue.
“As soon as you see the amber lights come on, it would be good to slow down and be prepared to stop,” Hutchinson said. “If the busses come to a stop, you should come to a stop, even if that stop arm has not come out yet. That’s just going to help keep everyone safe.”