Schools to host sixth an­nual back-to-school fair Aug. 6

School sys­tem to of­fer free back­packs, ad­min­is­ter free vac­ci­na­tions at Show Place Arena

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­

The first day of back to school for Prince Ge­orge’s County Public Schools stu­dents is only a month away and the school sys­tem is wast­ing no time in help­ing them pre­pare for the new school year.

To en­sure that both par­ents and stu­dents are equipped with sup­plies, proper re­sources and have ful­filled all re­quired vac­ci­na­tions be­fore the 2016-17 school year be­gins, the school sys­tem will host its sixth an­nual back-to-school fair on Aug. 6 at Show Place Arena in Up­per Marl­boro to of­fer free back­packs and im­mu­niza­tions.

“It’s free for stu­dents, fam­i­lies and Prince Ge­orge’s County res­i­dents,” said school sys­tem spokes­woman Raven Hill in a phone in­ter­view Tues­day. “We’ll have over 200 schools rep­re­sented, 100 ven­dors in­clud­ing county agen­cies and of­fices, and also about 40 Prince Ge­orge’s County schools and of­fices. Free back­packs are the big draw for most fam­i­lies. We’ll have tick­ets for our stu­dents to re­ceive one

back­pack each.”

When it comes to ben­e­fit­ting the com­mu­nity at­large, Hill said the fair will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and re­sources nec­es­sary for ex­ist­ing stu­dents and new ones who are en­rolled with PGCPS for the first time.

“In years past, this backto-school fair served as a great ve­hi­cle for the school dis­trict to con­nect fam­i­lies be­fore the school year starts,” PGCPS Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Chief Chris­tian Rhodes said. “The pos­i­tive piece is the pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions the fam­i­lies have be­fore school starts. All schools are rep­re­sented — they have their own sta­tion. Nor­mally there’s some­one from the ad­min­is­tra­tion team or a teacher or par­ent li­ai­son or some­one who can help an­swer some on-the-spot questions and serve as the first greet­ing for the fam­i­lies, many of which will be new to the sys­tem.”

Rhodes, who has at­tended all of the back-toschool fairs in the past, said other give­aways will be of­fered from ven­dors. With nearly 1,000 to 2,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing each year, the fair has al­ways been the largest event hosted by the school dis­trict, he said.

“There’ll be in­for­ma­tion and hand­outs from schools to col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness, to early child­hood and spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion,” Rhodes said. “Of­ten­times for par­ents, it’s their first op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the school sys­tem for­mally. It’s kind of our unof­fi­cial be­gin­ning of the school year.”

Ac­cord­ing to PGCPS Stu­dent Ser­vices Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Adrian Tal­ley, the school sys­tem is part­ner­ing with Mary­land Part­ner­ship for Preven­tion to pro­vide free im­mu­niza­tions to kin­der­garten, sev­enth-grade and re­peat ninth-grade stu­dents only. About six or seven staff mem­bers will be on hand to ad­min­is­ter the shots, he said.

“Im­mu­niza­tion plays a role in re­duc­ing and help­ing to elim­i­nate some dis­eases,” Tal­ley said. “When we think about measles and small pox and oth­ers, chil­dren who are im­mu­nized don’t get them and it pre­vents the spread of those dis­eases.”

Tal­ley said it’s im­por­tant for stu­dents to get vac­ci­nated be­cause that’s the only way they can at­tend class and in­ter­act with their peers. Im­mu­niza­tions not only helps to en­sure chil­dren are healthy, but are also able to go to school and learn, he said.

“With­out im­mu­niza­tion, the chil­dren can­not come to school. They will be ex- cluded,” Tal­ley said.

Ac­cord­ing to Tal­ley, the school sys­tem has no­ti­fied par­ents of their child’s miss­ing im­mu­niza­tion records since De­cem­ber of last year. In ad­di­tion to mail­ing let­ters, the school sys­tem posted in­for­ma­tion on its web­site and via au­to­mated email alerts.

Tal­ley said al­though par­ents shouldn’t rely on the school sys­tem’s free clin­ics, they are a backup for those who oth­er­wise can’t af­ford to get their child im­mu­nized.

“We’re sup­port­ing our par­ents in the com­mu­nity and we can only be ‘great by choice’ if we choose,” he said. “That’s the choice we have as a school sys­tem by pro­vid­ing this free im­mu­niza­tion.”

For a com­plete list of free im­mu­niza­tion clin­ics and dates, visit http://­health/im­mu­niza­tions/.

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