During a special Leon County School Board (LCSB) meeting on Thursday, Board member Rosanne Wood initiated a discussion about vaccine incentives focused on Leon County School (LCS) employees and students. The proposed initiative would provide a monetary incentive for employees and students to get vaccinated.
Board member Wood opened the discussion by stating, “since we are the educators of Leon County, we need to be doing a better job of educating our kids, parents, and our families of the importance of this vaccine…”
Wood mentioned that SAIL High School is holding a vaccine clinic and will be offering Starbucks gift cards and Amazon gift cards to students and employees who get vaccinated.
Before the meeting, Wood requested LCSB staff to examine what funds Broward County utilizes for its incentive program. She also asked staff to investigate what possible funds the LCSB might use for their vaccine campaign.
According to LCSB staff, Broward County uses a portion of their CARES II Grant for the program. However, the CARES II Grant is not an option for the LCSB. The grant money is allocated to pay off the Chrome Books that became necessary last year. Also, the funds provide additional staffing to schools to help mitigate learning loss due to the pandemic.
However LCSB did note they found nearly $100,000 from insurance renewals supplied by insurance companies as a Wellness Grant.
Staff noted that the LCSB is banned from participating in games of chance and cannot offer a raffle incentive. For there to be an incentive initiative, the Board will have to reallocate funds from the Wellness Grant to the Foundation for Leon County Schools.
However, the Board can provide educational information to employees and students.
Wood appealed to the rest of the Board, stating, “it’s the message from the Board that is important, that we value this. I think the parents trust us, they trust their school principal, they trust their teachers, and if we say publicly that ‘this is important and we hope you’ll do it,’ maybe it will make a difference… at least to the movable middle.”
She further suggested more public relations material, such as posters and videos for educational purposes, and reallocating Wellness Grant funds to the foundation for the incentive program.
School Board member Vice-Chair Darryl Jones commented that he would be happy to proceed with a campaign and even an incentive program, so long as the incentives are reserved for students. He claimed that children believe they are invincible and do not think about death; therefore, an incentive might help. However, Jones suggested that “mature people” understand the consequences of COVID and that it should be “incentive enough.”
Also, Jones made the point that the funds may be better used elsewhere. Since last year, schools have been trying to “remedy learning loss,” so when the Board is discussing reallocating funds, they “ought to identify funds to help students who are quarantined,” Jones said. In addition, a focus should be on better student engagement while they are under quarantine. Otherwise, “learning loss will continue to persist.”
Lastly, Superintendent Rocky Hanna conveyed that he supports using funds to promote education about the vaccine. Conversely, he is not as supportive of an incentive program. “If life or death isn’t enough to motivate them, then I’m not sure there is anything in our toolbox that can help,” Hanna said.
The discussion ended with Hanna assuring the Board that he and LCS staff will investigate what items might be used for incentives. The debate will resume during the next meeting on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]