Fifty-two junior high students were barred from attending classes Thursday in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District because they did not have the Tdap whooping cough vaccine.
Students not immunized for pertussis, or whooping cough, were turned away for failing to abide by the new state law, which went into effect July 1 and requires all seventh- through 12th-graders to get the vaccine or parents to sign a waiver arguing the vaccine is against their beliefs.
School districts were given an extra 30 days after the first day of school to get students protected against the contagious disease that prompted legislation last year after a record epidemic of more than 9,000 cases hit California and killed 10 infants, the most vulnerable.
The absolute deadline for Santa Maria-Bonita’s 2,869 seventh- and eighth-graders was Thursday.
Parents were called to pick up students from the district’s four junior high schools, while other students just didn’t show up because they didn’t have the shot, said Mark Muller, director of pupil personnel services.
“The kids all knew,” Muller said, adding that another automated warning call went out to parents Wednesday night.
Some parents picked up their kids and drove them directly to a clinic, pharmacy or family physician to get vaccinated.
“The vast majority have appointments set,” Muller said.
Santa Maria-Bonita could lose about $1,500 because of the dip in attendance, he said, since state funding for districts depends on the number of students attending to be included in Average Daily Attendance (ADA) counts.
Those 52 students also lost a day of learning and will continue falling behind until they turn in proper immunization records.
“We don’t like to lose opportunities for kids to learn,” Muller said.
The district was at 98.2 percent compliance as of Thursday — a decent stride considering more than 200 still needed the vaccine at the end of last week and 109 didn’t have the shot Wednesday.
Santa Maria-Bonita was the first area district to shun unprotected students, but others will soon follow.
Today signals the 31-day mark for Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, but school officials have said they will not start turning students away until Monday.
Under the 30-day rule, Guadalupe and Lucia Mar Unified school districts have until Monday to close the gap.
Orcutt Academy students have until Friday, with the rest of Orcutt Union School District students and other districts hugging the Sept. 23 deadline.