Health & Fitness

What every Stanislaus County parent should know as they prepare for back-to-school

Bouncy houses, folklórico dancing and playing in the park — essential elements to get ready for school?

Definitely, for some local kids.

Last Friday evening was the sixth annual Westside Community Back-to-School Event and Backpack Giveaway at James Marshall Park.

The event was sponsored by The city of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department and Modesto City Schools Student, Parent & Community Support Services, with donations and participation by Stanislaus County Office of Education, local government agencies, law enforcement, social services and nonprofit groups.

Fourteen-year-old Savannah said she’s excited to start the eighth grade at Somerset Middle School. “I’m looking forward to Language Arts,” said Savannah, while making friends with one of the Despicable Me minions.

She took full advantage of face painting, famous friends and free backpacks at the event.

Prominent guests ranged from Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock) and Iron Man to the minions and Wally the Walnut from the Modesto Nuts.

But, the guests of honor were area kids, who needed a little extra help to get ready for the new school year.

But getting ready for school is serious business and nearly all public and private schools in California have requirements for enrolling.

By law, all children age 6 and older in California must attend school. Preschool and kindergarten are not required. However, children who have quality preschool and kindergarten education tend to do better in elementary school, according to child development experts.

To enroll in public kindergarten or first grade (if it’s the first time in school), children must have documentation of a healthcare visit, oral health assessment and up-to-date vaccines.

In addition, to enroll their child in a new school regardless of grade, parents need to provide a physical address (with some exceptions), proof of the child’s age and identity (such as a birth certificate), proof of legal guardianship and previous school records, if applicable.

If a child is homeless or without a permanent address, the school district must permit enrollment and the student may not have to provide all of the documentation.

These are general requirements and they may vary for individual schools. Parents should check with their child’s school for its specific requirements.

Required tasks for enrollment

  • Healthcare Visit

California law requires documentation that the child had a health checkup within the previous 18 months of entering first grade. The documentation must be provided to the school within 90 days of entrance, but parents may submit a waiver if they are unable to obtain the health screening or they don’t want their child to have the exam.

The health visits should be comprehensive and ideally happen at the child’s regular provider. The visit should include an assessment of physical health (weight, review of acute and chronic illnesses, such as asthma and lead testing, if indicated), mental well-being (screening for depression, substance use and suicide risks, depending upon the student’s age), vision and hearing screens, necessary vaccines and wellness counseling.

  • Vaccinations

All new students entering K through 12 and all students advancing to seventh grade must provide proof of up-to-date immunizations. California laws permit exceptions for students with valid medical exemptions signed by a healthcare professional or personal belief exemption in place before 2016 that is still valid.

  • Oral Health Assessment

California law requires that children have an oral health assessment as part of school readiness for kindergarten entry (or first grade if it’s the child’s first year in public school). The assessment must occur in the year prior to enrolling or by May of the kindergarten year. Parents may obtain a waiver if the exam poses an undue financial burden, it can’t be completed because of a lack of access to an oral health professional or because the parents withhold consent.

Having all of the right stuff, from baby shots to backpacks, makes starting the new school year much easier.

This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.


Health-related Requirements for Enrolling into California Schools

GradeAgeVaccinesDental ExamHealth Exam
Kindergarten5 years by Sept. 1, 2019Proof of Required vaccines* - 5 DTaP, 4 polio, 3 Hep B, 2 MMR, 2 varicellaAn oral health assessment within the previous 12 months or by May of kindergartenWithin 90 days of school starting, need to provide documentation of health assessment within 18 months of starting school
1st grade6 years by September 1, 2019

If not completed by kindergarten, an oral health assessment must be completed

7th grade advancement

Proof of required vaccines* - the kindergarten shots PLUS 1 Tdap and 2 varicella

* DTaP/Tdap = diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, Hep B = hepatitis B, MMR = measles, mumps & rubella, varicella = chickenpox

Related stories from Modesto Bee

ChrisAnna Mink is pediatrician and health reporter for The Modesto Bee. She covers children’s health in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley. Her position is funded through the financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with The GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of her work.