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No lead testing with new student immunizations

August 8, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY —Despite her best efforts, Deborah Chubb could not convince the Michigan City School Board to vote to require incoming kindergarteners to receive lead poisoning tests.

Chubb, a member of the seven-person board, made a motion during the July 31 meeting, hoping to amend the MCAS handbook and code of conduct to include a requirement to have incoming kindergarteners tested for lead poisoning.

The board voted 4-3 against this motion, which Chubb called “disappointing.”

The effort was one of many proposed by a Committee on Lead that was formed a few years ago by Mayor Ron Meer, following a Reuters article that indicated areas of Michigan City may have elevated levels of lead, which is especially dangerous to young children.

The committee has since reported that much of the above-average lead levels in local children’s blood has come from lead-based paint in homes built prior to 1978.

“There is a lot of work being done in Michigan City (in regards to lead exposure), but we suffer from lack of lead testing among children,” Chubb said.

She went on to explain that exposure can affect a child’s development.

Chubb’s recommendation to the MCAS board members was to require lead testing as part of standard immunizations that would not only help identify children who have been affected, but could help determine where high levels of lead exist throughout the city.

“There would be no added cost and it would happen at the same place as the immunizations,” Chubb said prior to Tuesday’s vote, explaining the tests are offered free.

Although Chubb’s proposal failed to pass, MCAS Superintendent Barbara Eason-Watkins told the board that other actions are being taken to bring awareness to the lead issue, and offered other ways to test local children.

This includes a mobile site at the Kindergarten Round-Up event that provided testing for kindergarteners, as well as a Healthlinc station at the upcoming Back to School Rally.

“We have taken steps to try to ensure greater awareness … We share your passion,” Eason-Watkins told Chubb.

E-learning days approved

The MCAS Board unanimously approved the use of e-learning days during the upcoming school year.

E-learning days can be used during inclement weather as a way to keep students focused on schoolwork on snow days, which can prevent the need for make-up days at the end of the year.

They can also be used to allow time for professional development for teachers, if needed.

Cathy Bildhauser, director of curriculum, told the board e-learning days were the result of a committee study done last year.

The study of 984 survey responses showed that 941 respondents have access to the internet at home. For those without access, MCAS will maintain a list of businesses with wireless internet access that are willing to serve as “workplaces,” Bildhauser said.

“All students will be informed of their learning targets for the day by 9 a.m.,” she said. “Student work will cover content that would have been addressed if school were in session in a traditional setting and cover previously taught material.”

MCAS Technology Director Kevin McGuire said most classrooms are ready for the program, especially at the secondary level, and this is the next step to make it district-wide.

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