This week saw the mobilization of vaccination efforts into schools in Dubuque. MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center worked with school and public health officials to execute pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinics at several Dubuque schools over the coming week.

That’s a smart approach to preventive health care when providers have an opportunity to meet people where they are. That led to officials identifying schools where students might have less access to a vaccine due to transportation issues, scheduling problems or lack of access to a provider. The clinic offers both COVID-19 vaccinations and flu shots.

This is a positive step that undoubtedly will reduce the spread of illness among schoolchildren this winter.

Hospital officials said they hope the offering eventually can be expanded to other schools and districts, so families who otherwise might face challenges with getting their children vaccinated can do so more quickly.

Additionally, officials at Western Dubuque Community School District plan to partner with organizations to set up COVID-19 vaccine clinics at school facilities.

The older generation will recall students being lined up for shots at elementary schools in the 1950s when a polio vaccine was first available. You can bet few people refused those shots, and polio was deemed eradicated by 1979.

A salute to health care and school stakeholders for joining forces to simplify access to these vaccines that will slow the spread of illness in our communities.

Dubuque public schools officials have another effort in the offing that helps combat a different kind of access impacting kids.

District officials figured out that some students’ chronic absenteeism is related to transportation issues. Sure, buses cover the kids who live two or more miles away from schools, but for students just inside that boundary, a trek of more than a mile can be a challenge. Throw in busy streets, inclement weather, the fact that some of these students are quite young and parents who might not be at home to see kids off in the morning and it’s easy to see how the route to school could be daunting.

So, district officials are trying out a solution, piloting three morning bus routes to pick up students who otherwise would not have transportation to their schools. The bus loops run after the normal bus routes and pick up kids who need rides inside the boundary.

It’s commendable that district officials dug into absenteeism, found a cause and came up with a way to address it. That’s good problem-solving and community outreach. Here’s hoping the premise holds true and the added bus loops have a positive impact on kids getting to school.

While school districts play a vital role in helping serve the needs of kids on multiple fronts, here’s what they can’t do: Make decisions in direct defiance of a county health care mandate. But that’s exactly what happened in a Grant County school district, where school board members intend to allow asymptomatic students to attend school after being exposed to a positive COVID-19 case.

The decision from the River Ridge School Board comes in defiance of the county’s health officer, who recently ordered the district to prevent multiple students from attending school and extracurricular activities until they completed a mandatory quarantine. District leaders at first complied and then walked back on that commitment, saying they would no longer comply.

County Health Officer/Director Jeff Kindrai pushed back when he learned that students who were identified as close contacts of a known positive case were attending school. Kindrai, as public health officer for the county, is compelled by law to follow state guidance. Yet somehow school board members decided they knew better than state and county public health officials.

Parents, they said, found the quarantine rules “disruptive” of kids’ lives. You know what can really be disruptive? COVID-19. School board members have no business jumping far outside of their expertise to trump a decision regarding the public health of the student body.

The school board even passed a measure allowing asymptomatic students who had been exposed to participate in extracurricular activities. So, is that what this is about? Parents not wanting to see Junior miss a game?

These elected officials must first be accountable for the well-being of students, and that means following health guidance from actual health officials.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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