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 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
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:// www1.pgcps.org/schoolhealth/immunizations/.