While we hope it never happens, if a measles outbreak ever occurs in the Boulder Valley School District, BVSD is now better prepared to respond. Following a massive push this fall, nearly every student in the district is in compliance with state law – which requires that they provide documentation of their immunizations or an exemption.
This is important because this data will be used by public health officials to determine who can attend school during a health emergency. As an example, during a measles outbreak, anyone who hasn’t been immunized may be excluded for up to 21 days.
Collecting all of the data was a daunting challenge for the staff of BVSD’s Health Services department. At the beginning of the school year, about 5,000 students were on the list. Over the course of three months, BVSD school nurses, paraprofessionals, and school staff were able to get the number down to about 20.
“I am completely filled with gratitude and so proud of the effort of everyone involved,” said Boulder Valley School District Director of Health Services Stephanie Faren. “In addition to caring for students who come into the health room, this has been the priority for our staff from the very beginning of school. It is an enormous amount of work – collecting records, checking the state’s immunization system, inputting dates manually. None of it is automated.”
While BVSD annually encouraged families to turn in their documentation, this is the first year that BVSD has enforced state law, which requires districts to exclude students that do not meet the requirements.
“The district has always shied away from any sort of immunization enforcement,” Faren said.
While the district remains neutral on immunizations for students, our local public health agencies have warned that BVSD could be at greater risk for a measles outbreak because of our high vaccination exemption rates and the number of families and visitors that travel in and out of Colorado and the United States.
In addition to notifications last spring and this summer, direct communications increased leading up to the December 2 deadline.
“It came down to the very end for some people,” Faren said.
Many parents reached out to her office to share the reasons that they hadn’t responded yet.
“We had a lot of parents who directly wrote to us and said, ‘I am so sorry this is taking me so long. There is so much else going on in life and I didn’t know my child was missing vaccines,’” Faren said. The vast majority of our families were very helpful and were actually very appreciative of the effort.”