Back-to-School Checklist

Tulsa area schools are gearing up to kick off the new year. We’ve provided a back-to-school checklist with some obvious, some not so obvious, things to do before the first bell rings.

Get Those Vaccinations!

If you haven’t already done so, make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. Priscilla Haynes, division chief for preventive health services with the Tulsa Health Department, says that parents or guardians who bring their children to the health department for immunizations need to bring a record of their shots, including any vaccinations that were given in another state. “If they have not received shots at the health department,” Haynes said, “don’t assume we have it.”

However parents who have gotten their children’s immunizations at the Tulsa Health Department now have a new way to access records. “If they go online at our website (,” Haynes said, “they can click to receive an electronic copy of their health records.” Health department staff will try to fill those requests within a week. Records are also available by printing off the online request form, filling it out and faxing it in or by requesting in person. Forms are in English and in Spanish.

For a schedule of required immunizations to attend school in Oklahoma, ask your healthcare professional or go to You can also find recommended vaccines such as the MCV4 (meningococcal vaccine) at age 11-12 years and a booster dose at age 16. Students attending any public or private college or university in Oklahoma who will live in on-campus student housing are required to have the MCV4.

Another suggested vaccine for both boys and girls is the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) at age 11-12. “This helps protect against anal cancer, genital warts and esophageal cancer and some cervical cancers,” said Merry Baker, public health nurse, Tulsa Health Department.

And, while we often think of vaccines as something only for young children, Oklahoma students entering 7th grade are required to have a Tdap, which boosts immunity to whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

For children or teens who may have missed their vaccines, Baker said not to worry. “We just start kids from where they’re at, and get them in progress,” she said. “We’ll get them what’s required to start [school], and then follow up.”

Baker also pointed out that adults going back to school may have certain immunization requirements. Those who are around children will need to be up to dtae as well. “Adults should get the Tdap when they have new babies, or are childcare workers,” she said. “It’s important to protect those that we’re around.”

By getting vaccines, “we’re protecting ourselves and others,” Baker said.

To help parents with the back-to-school immunization rush, Haynes said that the Goodwin (51st & 129th) and Central (3rd & Utica) branches of the Tulsa Health Department will be open extended hours until 6 p.m., Mon. through Thurs., during August. The clinics will be open until 11 a.m. on Fridays.

“It’s our goal to provide the best service we can, but unfortunately some clients wait,” Haynes said. “We ask for them to be patient.” She also recommends that parents give their children a snack before they come or while they’re waiting.

The Tulsa Health Department also provides dental services for children up to age 18. While private insurance is not accepted, services are offered either on a sliding scale or through Medicaid.

“We also have a child guidance program focusing on child development – issues with normal things you experience with children, potty training, behavior, hearing and speech screenings and additional screening,” Haynes said.

For more information, go to or call 918.582.WELL (9355).


Kids need a lot of sleep. And, because sleep has a direct impact on mental and physical development, it’s important for them to get their recommended zzzzz’s. The Sleep Foundation says that preschoolers need 11-13 hours each night, 6-13 year olds need 9-11 and teens need 8-10 hours to be at their best. So, start easing kids into a back-to-school bedtime routine early. You can start a couple of weeks early by starting bedtime slightly earlier each night, and wake-up time 15 minutes or so earlier each morning until you’re back to your school-year schedule.

Easing Jitters

Going back to school can give some kids a little anxiety. Knowing what to expect can help ease those fears. Go to your child’s school website to find out about rules, expectations, uniforms, lunch and recess periods, etc. Share this information with your child. Keep it positive and fun.

Attend any opportunities that your child’s school might have for a visit before school starts. If your child has a friend going to the same school, invite the friend over to play before the first day. Shopping together for a new backpack, pair of sneakers, outfit or other school supplies can help get kids excited about school. Listen to your child’s concerns and address them in a positive way. Spend a little extra time with your child the first few days of school.

Safety Reminders

However your child is getting to school – bus, carpool, bike or on foot – go over safety rules for each. Even if your child has ridden the bus before, go over where to stand, how to enter and exit the bus and how to watch for cars. Go over biking or walking routes to school and review safety information. Alert the school about who can and cannot pick up your child.

Get Involved

Join PTA. Offer to volunteer at your child’s school. Let your child’s teacher know if he or she has any special needs or is experiencing difficulties at home. Attend back-to-school night and parent/teacher conferences. Read all home-and-back information and know how to use electronic portals if those are available. If you see your child struggling, address those concerns early on with his or her teacher. Stay positive and respectful of the teacher’s time.

Get Organized

Before school starts, have a place for all those papers that will be coming home. If a filing system works for you, set up files for papers/art to save, information to keep such as records or classroom rules, papers that need immediate attention such as permission slips or classwork that needs to be signed, and a miscellaneous file. Post a family calendar. Create a homework area (with supplies) and define expectations for when homework will be done each day. Plan which extra-curricular activities your child will do, and mark days on the calendar in advance. Plan carpooling.

Medical Check

Besides immunizations, your child may need a physical exam for participation in sports or other activities. Let the school know about any medications your child will need or any allergies he or she may have. To insure that your children will be at their best for learning, fuel their bodies with healthy meals and snacks, and have hearing, speech and eyesight checked. The Tulsa Health Department (; 918.582.WELL 9355) does some screenings. The Mary K. Chapman Speech & Hearing Clinic at the University of Tulsa also provides free speech-language and hearing screening tests for children. For an appointment, call 918.631.2504.

Categories: Education, Features