Where did the summer go?
It will be an oft-asked question in Routt County and across the country over the next couple of weeks as parents and students prepare for another school year.
But whether it's dread or excitement that characterizes anticipation of the new school year, local and national experts in child health and education are offering a number of recommendations to help families and children enter the academic year healthy and prepared to learn.
Immunizations are one of the most important ways parents can ensure a healthy year for their children. Required by law, complete immunizations include: five doses for DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), four doses for polio, two doses for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), three doses for hepatitis B and one dose for chicken pox.
Immunization records are required for all students entering kindergarten. Generally students older than kindergarten age have received most required inoculations and have records on file with their school districts, said Dot Haberlan, team leader for school health services for all three Routt County school districts.
"We know which kids are up to date, and for the kids who aren't up to date we've already contacted their parents," Haberlan said.
Students who recently moved to the area from another state may need to update their immunizations, Haberlan said. All parents should check their children's immunization records by contacting their health care provider.
Most of the necessary inoculations are available at doctors' offices or through the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
"Don't wait until the last minute because everyone else is also," Haberlan said.
Under state law, students who aren't up to date with their immunizations won't be allowed to attend school after Sept. 15. Parents can sign a waiver form if they're against immunizations for their children.
Parents also should be prepared to notify the school's nursing staff if their child needs to take any medications during the school day.
"If students need to take medications at school -- prescription or over the counter -- their parents need to bring it in to the nurse's office," Haberlan said. "Don't send it in the backpack. I need to know what it is you want me to give your child."
Making sure students bring snacks to school and eat a nutritious breakfast are essential for ensuring a successful day of learning. Easy snacks include granola bars, dry cereal and fruit, Haberlan said. Nine hours of sleep every night also will help ensure active learning.
Younger students need to bring appropriate shoes for the playground, which means sneakers, not sandals, Haberlan said.
"We see a lot of foot and toe injuries," she said.
Northwest Colorado's variable climate also means parents should dress their students in layers or send them to school with a jacket every day.
Haberlan also asks parents to make sure their children know how to reach them at all times in case of an emergency.
The beginning of a school year can be extremely difficult for children, particularly after a long summer, and parents are urged to show patience and understanding during the transition.
"It's a difficult re-entry from the summer, and the younger the child, the harder it is," Haberlan said. "And it's traumatic for parents also when their kid doesn't hit their stride right away."
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, parents can help ease the transition by being enthusiastic about the change, visiting the school with their child, introducing themselves to the teacher before the beginning of the year, putting their children to bed earlier in the weeks leading up to the school year and putting aside extra time to communicate with their children, particularly the first few days of the school year.
Other suggestions include talking about the bus route with their student, actively listening for any concerns a child might have about entering school and providing children with small family photos to remind them the family is always with them.
All Routt County school districts have posted elementary school supply lists on their Web sites. Area retailers that sell school supplies include Wal-Mart, City Market, Safeway, Pilot Office Supply and Bonfiglio Drug in Oak Creek.