Local News

Cumberland Report Raises Red Flags For Children

Posted August 8, 2003

— School starts in many counties Monday, but some young children may show up for class only to find the doors closed. It is an issue that is raising concerns in Cumberland County.

Four-year-old Kemaney Bilbry is getting ready for kindergarten. He is having his Kindergarten health assesement. Under state law, the exam is required within 30 days of the first bell. In the community report

MetroVisions Community Benchmark

that was released in Cumberland County, the category, Health Assessments, received a red flag.

According to the 2002 report, 189 children were not admitted to school because they did not have their health screenings, which is nearly double from the year before. Community leaders made it a red-flag issue because they do not want it to reach the level it did in 1997 when 238 children were turned away.

Officials said they do not really know why there is a sudden hike. They wonder if more parents are losing their jobs and health insurance.

"It costs money to go to the doctor. Second, a lot of parents don't understand the significance of having a health assessment," said Eva Hansen, of the Cumberland County Partnership for Children.

Officials also said a cutback in school nurses and communication issues with Hispanics may also be contributing to the problem. Whatever the reason, pediatricians like Dr. Barbara Appel said any undetected health issue can affect a child's ability to learn.

"If they have anemia, they'll be tired [or] fall asleep in school, so screenings are very important," she said.

Appel found no problems with Kemaney, who said he cannot wait for his first day.

The report issues red flags and gold stars. Among the gold stars for Cumberland County was a lower turnover rate among teachers and better air quality.


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