School officials are scrambling to get more than 20,000 Valley students vaccinated for whooping cough before a state law bars them from attending class at the end of the month.
Districts are already on borrowed time. A new state law required proof of whooping cough boosters for all middle and high school-age students at the start of the school year. State officials granted a 30-day extension after a tepid response to vaccination efforts during the spring and summer.
Now the 30-day grace period is beginning to expire – and many parents are still ignoring the letters, phone calls, media campaigns and other pleas to get their children vaccinated.
At Fresno Unified, 46% of middle and high schoolers – about 15,000 students – haven't submitted proof they received the vaccine.
The district is continuing to call parents, send letters home and bring nurses to schools to give free booster shots.
"We're very concerned – we're meeting about this daily to see what else we can do," said Susan Bedi, Fresno Unified's spokeswoman.
Districts have a big stake in getting kids vaccinated: Most of the funding for schools comes from a formula based on "average daily attendance" – the more students who attend, the more money a district gets from the state. If students are barred from class, Valley districts stand to lose about $30-$35 per student per day, which could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large district.
Fresno Unified is planning 25 more vaccination clinics at schools throughout the city until the district's Sept. 21 deadline for booster shots. Two weekend clinics are planned this Saturday and Sept. 17.
Tina Jung, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education, said there won't be more extensions.
For some districts, there is even less time to get teens vaccinated.
With only one week before Central Unified's extension expires, the district is scheduling one final free vaccination clinic Monday at Central High School's East Campus. Nurses are also giving out shots at school sites.
Eleven percent of the district's middle and high schoolers – about 700 students – still haven't provided proof they received the shot.
At Clovis Unified, 2,500 out of 18,225 middle and high school-age students haven't turned in their proof of immunization. Clovis faces the same Sept. 21 deadline as Fresno Unified.
"We're in the process of making personal contact with families of students who have not yet received the vaccination," said Kelly Avants, district spokeswoman.
Updated figures from Visalia Unified were unavailable. Officials were busy Thursday holding vaccination clinics at two schools.
At Madera Unified, where 2,000 teens haven't provided proof of the vaccination, officials are referring students to the county health department.
Jake Bragonier, Madera Unified's spokesman, said officials are trying to contact the family of each unvaccinated teen before the district's Sept. 26 deadline.
"We're reminding everyone that the students won't be able to return to school without their documentation," he said.