Now that New York State has removed the religious exemption that allowed parents to refuse to vaccinate their children on grounds of faith-based beliefs, the New Paltz Central School District has amended its official policy with regard to immunization requirements for students.
At their recent first business meeting of the 2019-20 school year on July 10, the Board of Education held a first reading of an amended Policy 7511. After deciding to amend the current policy with the same language used by the state in order to eliminate any confusion as to whether the district is following state law in future situations, the BOE held a vote and passed a resolution to that effect.
Although trustees don’t typically adopt a new policy on the same night as a first reading of proposed changes, the board decided to go ahead in order to clear the way for the district to offer a parents’ information night next month, at which any questions or concerns about immunization or policies may be addressed. The forum will be held in August before the school year begins and speakers will include a doctor.
The old Policy 7511 was actually more stringent in some ways, keeping children out of school completely if parents or guardians didn’t provide certification of immunization. The new state policy calls for parents to be “encouraged” to have their child immunized “as soon as possible” with the deadline being 14 days into the school year. Within 30 days of the first day of school, parents and guardians of these children must show that they have made appointments for all required follow-up doses.
The extra work of following up on these cases will fall on the school nurse.
And while the religious exemption has been removed, a student designated as a refugee, homeless, or is in foster care may continue to attend school without proof of the required immunizations.
In past years, vaccination rates in New Paltz schools have ranged from 93 to 96 percent, low enough for several to be ranked among the 25 schools with the most opt-outs, statewide. In general, the religious exemption has been the most frequently cited, used around five times more often than the medical exemption.