By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Four of five excluded students back in class

Exclusion of the students was ordered by County Health Officer William Koenig because they were not vaccinated against whooping cough and one of their classmates had contracted the highly contagious disease. He directed they be excluded for the disease’s 21-day incubation period, starting May 19.

Since then, Fisher said, “The other four have been able to, in some way or another, satisfy the vaccination requirement in order to be able to return to school.” In some cases, he said, “We were able to track down records indicating they had been vaccinated.”

The roster of returning students included the son of Jon and Cecily Spencer, who complained to the News-Register about his exclusion, thus bringing it to public light. They also lodged a complaint with their local state representative, Jim Weidner.

They said their child should not have been excluded, because the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, thus students who were not excluded are also at risk of contracting or spreading the disease. In fact, Jon Spencer said, “My sister-in-law’s three children contracted whooping cough two years ago in the Portland School District,” despite being fully vaccinated.

However, it turned out that, unbeknownst to the Spencers, their son had received a course of the vaccine in conjunction with a tetanus vaccination. And he was allowed back into school on that basis.

“We had to acknowledge that he is at higher risk than the vaccinated students, which I don’t believe is the case, but I was willing to do that to get him back into school,” Spencer said.

Fisher said he is glad the students were allowed back.

“There’s never a great time for kids to be out of school,” he said. “We always want kids to be in school.”

The remaining student, Fisher said, will be able to participate remotely, through a video link, and to receive and send homework assignments via e-mail. The student will be allowed back in person on June 5, he said.

Because the school is in the middle of state-mandated tests, some of which require students to be physically present, Fisher said, “I worked with the county health officer to have an approved space set up. We have a conference room in the office where they can complete that testing.”

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