Health benefits: More schools are now offering bonuses to the fully vaccinated

Rockford Public Schools is using COVID relief funds to give vaccinated students $100 gift cards
By: | September 7, 2021

As waves of educators fall ill and new deaths are reported weekly, districts are giving teachers and eligible students incentives to get fully vaccinated.

A pair of high school students, one in North Florida and one in Kentucky, have died of COVID in recent days, according to published reports.

Rockford Public Schools near Chicago is using federal COVID relief funds to give each eligible student $100 in gift cards if they are or become fully vaccinated.

Students were offered the first, $50 gift card for getting vaccinated at one of the district’s pop-up clinics in mid-August. They receive a second $50 gift card when they get their second shot.

“The vaccine is the best defense we have against COVID-19, the virus variants and further interruptions and distractions for students,” the district says on its website. “We want our students to have the most normal school year possible. The greater a schools’ vaccination rate, the lower the chance of closures, cancellations and interruptions.”

The district also noted that students who do not take advantage of the incentive will not face any consequences. Still, the districts plan to expand the incentive program when the COVID-19 vaccine is available for students younger than 12.

In South Carolina, Anderson School District Five is paying students $100 to get vaccinated, the Independent Mail reported.

Superintendent Tom Wilson told the newspaper in late August that he estimated that well under 50% of the district’s students were vaccinated. “We feel like this will move the needle,” Wilson told the Independent Mail.

Also in South Carolina, the Colleton County School District—which has gone remote for two weeks—is offering students a $20 gift card to get vaccinated, reported.

Staff incentives are much more common

More than a dozen Miami-Dade County Public School employees have died in recent weeks while a Texas district shut down after three staff members died, according to published reports.

The Colleton County School District will give full-time employees $300 and part-time employees $150 when they get the vaccine and Gwinnett County Public Schools near Atlanta is offering a $500 incentive to fully vaccinated staff members.

“In the past, our district has focused on increasing awareness of vaccine availability and of opportunities to become vaccinated,” Gwinnett Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts said on the district’s website. “However, it is time to improve our efforts. We hope to make a difference in encouraging vaccinations through employee incentives and additional vaccination clinics.”

Dallas ISD will also pay full- and part-time employees $500 for proof of vaccination until Nov. 15.

Orange County Public Schools, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, is offering $200 to full- and part-time staff members who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 31, 2021. “OCPS has lost friends, family members and team members,” the district said on its website.

Florida remains a K-12 hotspot

Educators and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration continued to battle over COVID precautions after the holiday weekend. The Florida Education Association union released its 2021-22 Safe School Report because, it says, the state is not being fully transparent about COVID infections, deaths and quarantines in public schools.

The union claims that the state of Florida has gone so far as to block health departments in several counties from releasing Covid-19 data in schools. The Safe Schools Report includes some of the following numbers:

  • 10: Children who have died from COVID since July
  • 46: Educators who have died from COVID since the state education department’s July 6 Reopening Order
  • 200,834: School-age children (K-12) who’ve tested positive since Aug. 10, when the first schools opened
  •  14.6%: Statewide Covid-19 pediatric positive testing rate. The Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 5% as the upper threshold for in-school instruction.
  • 1,235: Classroom closings and quarantines since the first schools reopened on Aug. 10.