Of every three kindergarten students at PS1 Pluralistic School last year, one was not fully vaccinated due to their parents’ personal beliefs, according to state data.
But at the Santa Monica private school, that figure probably won’t hold for long.
A state law banning personal-belief exemptions to student vaccination went into effect Jan. 1, leading to dramatic changes for children, parents and schools throughout the city.
Officials at PS1 have reviewed and implemented the new regulations and are working to improve their immunization rate, according to Amanda Perla, the school’s communications director. The local private school requires parents to submit all documentation required by the state.
“We are grateful for the steps that are being taken to require more students to be vaccinated,” Perla said.
The issue is not unique to PS1, state data shows.
In 2014-15, 90.4 percent of the roughly 535,000 students enrolled in reporting kindergartens in California received all required immunizations, according to the state public health department. But more than 31 percent of kindergartners at New Roads School and more than 28 percent of kindergartners at Santa Monica Alternative School House skipped inoculations because of their parents’ wishes.
Double-digit personal-belief exemption rates were also found among kindergartners last year at the Smart Start Developmental Learning Center (18.5 percent), Roosevelt Elementary School (15.6), Will Rogers Elementary School (15.5), Franklin Elementary School (12.8) and Saint Anne School (12.2).
Santa Monica-Malibu school district administrators are seeking guidance from state and county education officials, as well as from nurses and public health department leaders as the new law takes effect. The local Board of Education will consider approving updated policies later this month.
“We know the topic of immunization has received increased public attention in recent years,” SMMUSD assistant superintendent Mark Kelly wrote in a Jan. 8 memo to the school board.
The district has created a notice to inform parents of students with personal-belief exemptions about the new law. Faculty members will also be briefed on the law so they can answer families’ questions. Meanwhile, school nurses will meet with enrollment staffers to discuss the legislative changes.
SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said it’s the district’s goal to ensure the accuracy of its vaccination records, first for students in grades affected by the law, and ultimately for all students. She added that students could be counted as unvaccinated for missing even one inoculation on the required list.
A personal-belief exemption filed before 2016 will remain in effect until the student reaches the next benchmark immunization year.
“SMMUSD is in support of this new law and has continued to encourage parents to have their students immunized regardless of their grade to best protect our entire student population and staff from preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles,” Pinsker said.
Senate Bill 277 was co-authored by Santa Monica High alumnus and former SMMUSD board member Ben Allen and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June. The enactment of the law followed a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and spread throughout Southern California last year, infecting a Samohi baseball coach and an infant at the school’s child care facility.