News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 20, 2012

Excluded students may be back by next week

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County School Corp. officials are optimistic that most students excluded from school last week for not meeting chickenpox vaccination requirements will be able to return by next week.

In an update to the Vigo County School Board Monday night, Ray Azar, director of student services, estimated that 100 or more students have already returned to school, either by meeting vaccination requirements or because the 21-day exclusion period has ended (based on the date of the last case).

Last Tuesday, 232 students had to be excluded due to lack of immunizations or objections to immunizations. By next week, Azar anticipates the majority of students will have returned.

But he also noted that if a school were to develop a new case of chickenpox, that would start a new 21-day exclusion period for those who don’t meet vaccination requirements.

Board member Jackie Lower asked about how excluded students were able to keep up with school work.

At the high school level, schools were asked to work with students so they would not lose class credit, Azar said. “In a variety of ways, they were able to do that.”

At the elementary and middle school level, schools were asked to develop take-home packets for children. “I did receive a couple of complaints early on,” Azar said, but for the most part, “we had very good cooperation from the community.”

n In other matters, the school board approved a recommendation from the benefits committee and it voted not to increase insurance premiums next year.

According to information provided to the board, the claims history has been such that Anthem’s underwriting team feels comfortable with no increase for the 2013 plan year.

“It’s pretty rare to have no increase,” said school board president Paul Lockhart. “We have a lot to be proud of.” He praised the efforts of the benefits committee, and also suggested employee use of the Wellness Center may have played a role.

The board also gave the administration permission to refinance energy savings contracts. The loans were financed at interest rates of 4.1 and 4.8 percent, and currently the rates are 2 to 3 percent.

Refinancing could save the district $500,000 to $600,000 on a 121⁄2 year loan, and about $100,000 on a four-year loan. “It will help our cash flow in Capital Projects,” said Donna Wilson, chief financial officer. The Capital Projects Fund has been hurt by circuit breaker losses.

The board also approved several grants, including a $75,000 federal McKinney-Vento grant that goes to Ryves Youth Center to serve the homeless. The school district is the agent for the grant. Ryves Youth Center has received the grant for about 20 years.

Most of the funding goes for a pre-school program, said Jim  Edwards, center director. Part of the funding is used for after-school tutoring and educational programs for homeless children who need extra support after school.

Ryves Youth Center served 1,589 different children last year, Edwards said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.