About 5,000 students at St Paul’s Public Schools will be kicked out of school at the end of next month until they receive mandatory vaccines for several childhood diseases.
Many families have put a hold on routine health care visits during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving their children out of compliance with state vaccine requirements. By law, they must be kept out of school until they get a shot or a waiver.
“We know that if we don’t escalate this issue, many of our families will last a whole year,” District Health and Welfare Director Mary Langworthy told the school board on Tuesday.
“And when we’re looking at the risk of another potentially communicable disease, like an outbreak of chickenpox or a measles outbreak on top of COVID, that’s something we’re working hard to avoid.”
The school board is expected on October 19 to approve a private list of students who will be out of school from October 27.
Langworthy said the list is sure to decrease in the coming weeks as staff continue to send reminders to the families of non-compliant students. Shots are available at the district’s student placement center.
In 2018, 96 students were kept out of school for a total of 265 days for vaccine non-compliance in the district. A year later, 61 students were put out for 119.5 days.
But last year, when the district was in distance learning for most of the school year, the district did not go through the process of excluding students for failing to vaccinate. With the pandemic continuing, Langworthy expects an unusually large number of disfellowshipped students next month.
Langworthy said that when the summer began, more than 6,000 students were behind in their shots. About half came into compliance over the summer, but birthdays and new enrollments have pushed the number up to about 5,000.
Langworthy said that in previous years, his staff was inconsistent about when they would bring forward the list of non-compliant students. This school year, they hope to introduce all non-compliant students in October.
“As a parent, I want to make sure the rules are applied equally,” she said.
The state requires five types of shots by kindergarteners: hepatitis B; chicken pocks; polio; measles, mumps, and rubella; and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Students in middle school also get meningococcal shots.
For homeless students who already have immunity and exemptions for medical reasons and honest objections. New students in the state have 30 days to comply.
Vaccine compliance rates have historically been lower in private schools than in public schools, and compliance has been even lower in charter schools, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health.