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Health fair marks slide into new school year

Desert View Hospital’s Meagan Kowalski considered Saturday’s Back to School Health Fair as the “biggest turnout thus far.”

The 8th annual event drew roughly 1,200 to 1,300 students and parents to the venue for a day of activities in preparation for the new school year.

Several dozen area vendors also took part in the health fair, which was co-sponsored by the Nye County School District (NCSD) and NyE Communities Coalition.

Kowalski said parents and students made sure to arrive early to take advantage of the many services provided at the fair, where more than $1,000 worth of school supplies were given out to “early birds.”

“We had people showing up at 8:30 on Saturday morning waiting for us to officially open. By the time we opened at 9:00, the line was all the way to Lola Street. We were out of supplies for middle and high school students by 9:20. By 10 a.m., we were out of everything else,” she said.

Additionally, Kowalski said a few changes were implemented this year to keep the event a little more organized than previous years.

One change required students actually be present in order to receive supplies.

“We had everybody sign in and they were given a card that they presented to the booth and picked up their supplies that were pre-bagged. A bunch of us from the hospital and NyE Communities Coalition worked to get them all bagged up and ready to go. It made things much smoother and easier for everyone,” she said.

The “one-stop-shop” health fair also provided much-needed services free of charge for local residents including vaccinations, vision and dental screenings.

“We’re very pleased with how the event turned out, and are extremely grateful for all of the organizations that took the time to provide such invaluable services to our community,” Kowalski said.

For would-be athletes this year, Kowalski said sports physicals were provided free of charge, courtesy of a local medical clinic.

“Health Care Partners started right at 9 a.m. and they did not get a break. They and the other vendors all came prepared and gave out lots of great information and worked very, very hard with this year’s event,” she said.

NCSD Superintendent Dale Norton, a fixture at the annual event, said he opened the health fair up to families who reside just outside the Pahrump Valley who normally would not get to benefit from the services. Free transportation was provided for these families.

“That bus was funded to come over from Amargosa and they brought children and families over. Not as many as I’d like to see, but it’s more than if we would not have done that. Next year, we are going to try and expand to Beatty to get those immunizations and available resources that are here,” he said.

Norton said the on-site bus allows first-time students to get comfortable with riding in a school bus for their maiden school year.

“We have another bus here for tours for the little ones who want to check out the bus. It’s also an opportunity to get those bus applications in so that we are more prepared for that first day of school, for pick up and drop off. The more of those that we have, the better job that we can do. If we don’t have that information, we have to try and guess,” he said.

The superintendent noted that faculty members and administrators districtwide are finalizing preparations for the start of the school year, which is two weeks earlier this semester.

“August 11, August 11, August 11,” Norton said with zeal. “It’s coming quickly, but we are ready and pretty well staffed,” he said.

Kowalski, meanwhile, mentioned a statewide website that provides free up-to-date information on immunizations can be accessed by parents who could not attend Saturday’s event.

Nevada WebIZ allows both private and public provider access to Nevada’s statewide immunization registry, as state law dictates that a child may not be enrolled in a public, private, or charter school within Nevada until he or she has been vaccinated.

Excluded are those who have certain religious beliefs or medical conditions.

“Thirty people came to receive immunizations but were already up-to-date in WebIZ. Ken Owens, the Executive Director of the Helping Kids Clinic, comes out every year to do the vaccines for us. He said he believes the number of people who are up-to-date is a result of the clinic consistently coming out each year combined with the hospital’s good marketing of the event,” she said.

At the fair’s conclusion, Kowalski said she tallied 373 children who received school supplies and 312 kids who received screenings or sports physicals.

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