In Los Angeles, School Starts With New Rules, Schedules and Campuses

Friday, September 9, 2011

The long lines in front of Garfield High School started Tuesday.

But it wasn't students eager to get into classes at the East Los Angeles school, which began on Wednesday along with most L.A. Unified campuses. Instead it was parents either handing in proof that their children had been vaccinated against whooping cough or trying to find out where to get the mandatory shot.

"They just want to comply with the rules; they want to make sure that their kids will get a good education," Principal Jose Huerta said.

In all, nearly 218,000 students headed back to school on Wednesday, and seven new campuses opened for the first time.

L.A. Unified School District officials have been on decade-long building program to relieve overcrowding and ensure more students are on a traditional fall-to-summer schedule. Ten schools were taken off a year-round calendar this year.

District Supt. John Deasy toured 13 schools in the late summer heat Wednesday, beginning his day with an upbeat tweet at 5 a.m.

L.A. Unified officials have been pushing students to get their booster shots since a new law took effect this summer, requiring that all middle school and high school students prove they had been vaccinated against whooping cough within 30 days of classes starting.

In July, about 35% of students starting school in August or September had proof they had been vaccinated. That number rose to about 58% by the end of August, district officials said.

Garfield administrators estimated that 85% of their nearly 2,600 students had proof of a vaccination and believe that the number is increasing. "We still have to count them all," a nurse said Wednesday, gesturing toward a pile of paperwork.

Other campuses also have made progress. During the summer, nearly 76% of the students attending year-round school at Huntington Park High School did not have proof of a vaccination. Huntington Park administrators feared that about two-thirds of the nearly 1,250 students expected to begin classes on Wednesday might have also lacked the proper paperwork.

But only about 190 students did not have evidence of a vaccination, Principal Lupe Hernandez said.

Hernandez and other administrators held an assembly to remind students and will continue to call parents.

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