The Paducah Independent School District announced at a special meeting Monday that the district would take part in a COVID-19 vaccine incentive program through the Kentucky Department of Education.
The district would pay full-time and part-time teachers and staff $100 if they receive full COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) would then reimburse the district for those funds using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
The KDE will use up to $8.8 million of its ESSER funding to reimburse districts statewide.
The McCracken County School District will consider participating in the program at its board meeting on Oct. 28.
However, when asked how many teachers and staff are already vaccinated, neither Paducah nor McCracken County knew. McCracken County has 920 employees, while Paducah has about 500.
Both districts held vaccine clinics earlier in the year for their employees when the vaccines were first available.
“We’re definitely aware of the teachers that we had vaccinated as part of our clinic that we held back in the spring,” said McCracken County Superintendent Steve Carter. “Since that time, there have been other teachers and staff who went out and got vaccinations on their own.”
Paducah Superintendent Donald Shively noted that school districts have new teachers coming in at the start of a new school year or during the school year.
“When you go from one school year to the next, you have a transition of employees — some in, some out,” he said. “We ask our employees to let us know at the beginning of the year…and the same with our students and their families. From a student standpoint, if you are over 12, let us know.”
Carter said if the McCracken County board approves taking part in the incentive program, his district would have a clearer number of vaccinated teachers and staff to report.
“They’ve reported to us, but unless there’s been an exposure, that’s when we find out about additional vaccinations that we may not have initially known about through contact tracing,” he said.
Shively said teacher vaccinations as part of a district-wide COVID policy was not considered when vaccines became available at the end of 2020.
“I think that vaccination comes into play — not just for our employees, but our students and our community,” he said. “That’s a thought process, part of the ‘layer’ strategy. Now, relative to what% it has to be for students or employees, that has not been any part of the discussion.
“The vaccine is available to the community. That’s a layer. Masking is a layer, (as are) fresh air into the building throughout the entire day, cleaning high-touch areas, all of the foggers — that kind of stuff that we’ve had in place for over a year now along with opportunities for Test to Stay for students and employees who have been exposed — all those have been different strategies that layer on top of each other (for COVID spread prevention).”
Carter and Shively both said their school boards have not discussed having vaccine mandates for district employees.
“There are always a lot of exemptions for any vaccine, whether it’s COVID or any of the other vaccines that are out there,” Carter said. “A lot of this — when it all first came out — was very new.
“Over 60% of our staff did get vaccinated through that initial clinic that we had last February.”
Shively said although federal legislation requires businesses with more than 100 employees to have them vaccinated or be subject to weekly testing, he does not see that being necessary in the Paducah district.
“There are no discussions between the board and I requiring every employee to be vaccinated,” he said. “I do not foresee us mandating, as an employer, the vaccination, based on the discussions we’ve had to this point.”
Paducah will release its total number or percentage of employees who are vaccinated after Dec. 1. The McCracken County district will release their information within a few weeks, but may wait until Dec. 1 if the board approves taking part in the KDE Vaccine Incentive Program on Oct. 28.
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