Annual Back-to-School Fair combines fun, information and good health -- Gazette.Net


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Some consider it a marker of summer’s end; others, the beginning of the school year.

Either way, the Montgomery County Public Schools’ annual Back-to-School Fair on Saturday was a day filled with fun activities, information booths and even a chance for seventh-graders to get the newly required meningococcal and Tdap vaccine.

In spite of Saturday’s persistent rain, the large parking lot at Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville was filled with white tents where kids and parents could get information about county services and after-school programs, special displays offering tips for healthy living, arts and crafts, dancing and fun activities for everyone.

Yirla Portobanco of Germantown said her children especially enjoyed getting on a real fire truck and she enjoyed watching them have fun.

“We came to support the county and see what they have to offer,” said Cochise Reyen, who was with Portobanco. “It’s nice. I especially like the exercise and art programs.”

In addition to math packets and summer reading lists, seventh-graders had a special assignment to complete this summer: making sure their immunizations were up to date.

Those who waited until the last minute could get those vaccinations at the fair.

Saturday’s clinic focused on seventh0graders rather than kindergartners, said Debra Aplan of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

“Kindergartners register and have to show proof of immunizations in the spring,” she said. “Their change added an extra chickenpox vaccine.”

Parents of seventh-graders were notified in the spring of the changes in state requirements, offered a schedule of free clinics offered by the county and warned that students would not be admitted to classes without the required proof.

Rebecca Sofon, 12, a seventh-grader at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, and her mother were there for Rebecca’s shot.

“I just came for the shot because they said I couldn’t come to school without it,” Rebecca said.

It turned out she did not need it and Rebecca said she was “very relieved.”

During the three-hour fair, 121 students received the free shots, with most getting Tdap and meningococcal vaccinations, Aplan said.

The tetanus-diphtheria-acelluar pertussis vaccine is a booster shot that helps protect preteens and teens from those diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal vaccines protect against most types of meningococcal disease, although they do not prevent all cases.

Aplan also said each school would check seventh-graders’ immunization records on the first day of school.

Those who still need shots can get them at free walk-in clinics from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Sept. 12 at the Germantown Health Center, 12900 Middlebrook Road, 240-777-3380; and the Silver Spring Health Center, 8630 Fenton St., 240-777-3160.

Brian Edwards, the school district’s chief of communications, said the rain didn’t seem to keep many people from the fair.

“It’s a great turnout,” he said. “We’re estimating 8[,000] to 10,000.”

This was the fair’s seventh year.

pmcewan@gazette.net