By Marsha Sutton
Senior Education Writer
A report published Aug. 17 stating that Solana Beach School District’s Skyline School has 25.9 percent of its kindergartners opting out of required vaccinations is technically accurate, but the fact that Skyline primarily serves students in grades 4-6 was not noted.
“I do think that only looking at a small grade level in isolation might be misleading,” said SBSD superintendent Leslie Fausset.
Fausset said there are 20 students out of a total enrollment of 491 who have waived vaccinations, which is about 4 percent.
The article, published in the San Diego Union-Tribune based on data collected by the Watchdog Institute at San Diego State University, included a chart that listed schools in the county with more than 25 percent of kindergartners declining to be immunized based on personal beliefs. Twelve county schools made the list, and Skyline was ranked 12th.
No information on total kindergarten enrollment, total school enrollment or the school’s grade configuration was provided in the print version of the report, making it difficult to ascertain the percentage of unvaccinated students in relation to total enrollment.
For example, a K-3 school with 25 percent unvaccinated kindergartners would represent a higher number of total unvaccinated students than would a grades 4-6 school with a small alternative K-6 program.
Fausset said Skyline has about 300 students in its regular fourth- through sixth-grade classes. An alternate Global Education program at the school, serving kids in kindergarten through sixth grade, has 182 students.
Of the 182 Global Education students, 27 are kindergartners, representing about 5.7 percent of the school’s total enrollment. It is these 27 students the report referenced when it claimed that over one-quarter of Skyline’s kindergartners — about seven students — opted out of required immunizations.
A more complete picture was provided in the on-line version of the report which, unlike the printed version, included data showing total kindergarten enrollment and the number choosing to opt out of vaccinations.
The printed version of the chart indicated that the school with the most opt-outs, at 83.3 percent, is Oasis Community in the Encinitas Union School District. But the expanded chart available in the on-line report showed that the school’s total kindergarten enrollment is 12 students, 10 of whom opted out.
Although Oasis topped the list with 83.3 percent exemptions, it also had the lowest number of kindergartners of any school listed. The highest was Julian Charter with 127 kindergartners — 33 of whom opted out (26 percent).
Fausset provided the following information on the number of students at all grade levels at all six Solana Beach schools that have opted out of vaccinations:
Carmel Creek, grades K-4 with a total enrollment of 515, had 10 waivers, a 2 percent opt-out rate. Solana Highlands, K-4 with 560 students, had 21 waivers, 3.7 percent opting out. Solana Pacific, grades 5-6 with 478 students, had three waivers, 0.6 percent opting out. Solana Santa Fe, K-6 with 406 students, had 13 waivers, 3.2 percent opting out. Solana Vista, K-3 with 434 students, had 28 waivers, 6.4 percent opting out. Skyline, with 491 students, had 20 waivers, 4 percent opting out.
The Watchdog report stated that California is one of 20 states that allow exemptions from required vaccinations based on personal beliefs. Health officials say waivers are often submitted because it’s easier than locating and copying vaccination records.
“I don't know the reasons parents have for electing to opt out,” Fausset said in an email. “I think there are a range of reasons.” But she noted that the district’s school nurses “work very hard to make sure that students are immunized.”