Boulder Students Without Vaccinations Or Exemptions Won’t Be Allowed Back To School After Thanksgiving

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A mother holds her baby during a vaccination. Colorado lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill, House Bill 1312, to fight the state’s low immunization rates.

Friday is the deadline for students at the Boulder Valley School District to submit proof they have received their immunizations or a medical, personal or religious exemption.

This is the first school year the district is fully enforcing a state law requiring immunization documentation. Those without appropriate documents won't be allowed back in school after the Thanksgiving break.

"Every year our school district has asked families to provide that documentation but we've never actually gone to the full extent of the law and set a date and said you cannot bring your student to school after that date without documentation," said Stephanie Faren, director of health services for Boulder Valley School District.

It is already state law (Board of Health rule 6 CCR 1009-2) for students attending Colorado schools and licensed child cares to be vaccinated against certain diseases unless an exemption is filed. But so far, schools have been allowed to enforce that law at their own discretion.

"We are kind of a perfect storm potentially for a measles outbreak because we do have a large population of students that elect not to vaccinate and we also have a lot of families that travel outside of the country," Faren said.

In Boulder in September, there were 5,000 students missing documentation. Now there are around 100.

A bill that aimed to improve state vaccination rates by creating a standardized form that parents would have to submit in-person to a local or state health department died in the state senate this summer.

"The past year with all of the measles cases and the large outbreaks that we've seen in highly unvaccinated populations across the country really made us stop and think very carefully about the population we have here in Boulder," Faren said.

Most of the other large districts in the state also require documentation. That includes Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, Douglas County School District and Mesa County Valley School District 51.

Faren said with Boulder Valley's low vaccination rates, it became more apparent in recent years that an outbreak was more a question of when it would happen, not if.

"To enforce this law really gave us the ability to have a very clear picture of where our students are that are unvaccinated and to know that if we do have an outbreak, all of the students that are vaccinated will be able to stay in school," Faren said.

She said she thinks the number of unvaccinated students in the area will go down because parents will be more educated on the state requirements.

The district began notifying families without vaccine documentation for children in May. Two more notices are going out the week of Thanksgiving.

Editor's Note: This story was updated with the correct number of students missing immunization documentation.