FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Parents and students are getting ready to go back to school for what’s now the third school year impacted by COVID-19. However, it is the first year that all students are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Every family, every parent has a great decision to make and that’s if they should get their child vaccinated for COVID-19,” Fresno County Department of Public Health assistant director Joe Prado said.

With vaccines now available for everyone aged 6 months and older, Prado says the vaccines give parents and schools another tool to keep kids healthy inside the classroom.

“There’s no mandates for schools at this time going into this school year so masking is highly recommended,” he added.

Data from the health department show kids are getting COVID-19. So far in 2022 in Fresno, around 20,000 youth cases have been reported.

“The BA.5 omicron variant, the variant of 2022, is impacting our pediatric population at a higher rate than previous variants,” Prado said.

In Tulare County, Superintendent of Visalia Unified School District Kirk Shrum is eager to welcome students back.

“We’re three years into this. There’s so much more we know now, so many more tools available to people,” Shrum said.

Shrum said the district will follow all health guidance from the state, but parents should expect to see more normalcy in the classroom.

“We know what works, and we also know the best place for kids to be is in the classroom,” he said.

Fresno County Department of Public Health officials add that, on top of the COVID-19 vaccine, now is time to check on other required school immunizations before classes are back in session.