UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) wants to make sure your children are ready for the new school year by providing free immunizations and backpacks at the 5th annual Back to School Fair on Saturday, August 8. The fair will be held from 10 am to 1 pm at the Show Place […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) wants to make sure your children are ready for the new school year by providing free immunizations and backpacks at the 5th annual Back to School Fair on Saturday, August 8.
The fair will be held from 10 am to 1 pm at the Show Place Arena and will include representatives from across all aspects of PGCPS. Visitors to the fair can expect to gain information about specific schools, programs and will have a chance to purchase school uniforms. Parents who wish to have their child vaccinated must pre-register by calling 301-583-3300 and provide a copy of immunizations records or “a letter from the student’s principal and school nurse sent home at close of school,” according to Angela Wakhweya, the chief of the office for school health policy for PGCPS.
Wakhweya said this is the second time the fair has offered free immunizations because of recent changes to immunization requirements for students entering kindergarten, grade 1, grade 7 or grade 8.
“The school system, in collaboration with the Prince George’s County Health Department, provides this opportunity to immunize students at the Back to School Fair at no cost to students, parents or guardians,” she said. “To remove any barrier to families – whether access, opportunity, or cost – to ensure that their students are healthy, protected and ready to learn.”
The immunizations are paid for through a federal fund called Vaccines for Children (VFC), which is funded through the Federal Office of Management and Budget and provided through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a facet of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“CDC buys vaccines at a discount and distributes them to grantees – i.e. state health departments and certain local and territorial public health agencies – which in turn distributes them at no charge to private physicians’ offices, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs – there are three in Prince George’s County) and public health clinics registered as VFC providers,” Wakhweya said in an email. “The vaccines provided at the PGCPS Back to School Fair are provided by the Prince George’s County Health Department through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Center for Immunization VFC grant.”
Wakhweya said the county health department is a “full partner” in the mass immunization clinic and said they provide nurses, medical supplies, the vaccines and clinical oversight during the clinics.
“We are firmly and jointly committed to the safety and health of our students and community, and their protection against some of the deadliest childhood diseases of our times such as chickenpox, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and meningitis,” she said.
Also included in the Back to School Fair is the annual backpack giveaway, which includes donated backpacks and school supplies from PGCPS business partners and donors.
Birgitt Brevard, the planning chair for the fair for the past four years, said PGCPS wants to make sure students are prepared for the new school year. She said there is nothing more disheartening than a student who is not prepared.
“We just want to make sure that those little things that we can influence, we are on top of and we provide that to them,” she said. “It’s also a little bit of a social thing, you know. We want to make sure that our students feel comfortable going to school and they don’t stand out for reasons that we can influence.”
She said donations are gathered all year and said PGCPS is “always looking for backpacks and supplies” to give to the students. She said some businesses choose to donate to specific schools, but those donations combined with the backpack giveaway add up to 5,000 backpacks donated a year to students.
“There is a need for it. We have a lot of families that are in need of support and we are here. Our community sticks together to help everybody who is in need of support,” Brevard said.
Upon entering the fair, children will receive a “passport” to fill out by visiting one school, one office and one vendor display.The backpacks will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis with a completed “passport.” Children must be present to receive a backpack.
Brevard said they expect anywhere between 7,000 and 14,000 people to attend the fair. She said it is exciting to have the “whole community under one roof” and parents should attend for a “one-stop shop” to answer all their school-related questions.