Students attending Essex High School and the Center for Technology, Essex can now access condoms at school for free.

The recommendation for the Condom Availability Protocol came from a 2016 memo from Dr. Harry Chen and Rebecca Holcombe, the former health commissioner and education secretary, respectively.

The memo cited a 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey which found almost one-third of Vermont students from Grades 6 to 12 were sexually active, and of those students, only 58 percent said they used a condom.

Dr. Chen and Holcombe recommended Vermont schools should implement “comprehensive sex education and condom distribution programs” to decrease the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, delay engagement in sexual intercourse and to increase use of condoms.

Essex Westford School District superintendent Beth Cobb said EHS and CTE already have a comprehensive sex education program in the health curriculum, but the schools will now offer condoms for any student that asks. Condoms are available from the health office, health teachers, the athletic trainer, counselors and student peer educators who are trained by Planned Parenthood and the school’s health teachers.

Cobb said sexual health is already taught in the health curriculum and added the aforementioned sources can help students further discuss condom use.

“We do check in with students that come in to get one, but it is brief unless they signal or say to us they want to speak with us,” Cobb wrote in an email to the Reporter.

Cobb said the condoms are funded by a Planned Parenthood STI prevention grant and noted EWSD is hoping to work with community partners to provide condoms outside of the district’s budget.

Cobb said she supports the program in light of the state memo from in 2016 and the related research that shows well-crafted sexual education programs can delay or prevent sexual intercourse.

EHS principal Rob Reardon said the program was modeled off state recommendations and supplements the health curriculum already in place.

“Any time we can educate our young people and make them aware of choices and behaviors that can reduce infection, that can be a good thing,” he said.