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San Marcos CISD board approves one-time COVID-19 vaccination incentive stipend

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The San Marcos Consolidated ISD Board of Trustees approved a one-time $250 COVID-19 vaccination incentive during Monday’s regular meeting. 

The board approved the incentive, 5-2, with trustees Kathy Hansen and Margie Villalpando voting against the motion. With trustee approval, every district employee vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive a one-time $250 stipend. District employees who are eligible to receive the vaccine but cannot do so because of health conditions or religious beliefs will also be able to receive the stipend.

“As Texas becomes, once again, a hotspot for COVID-19 and the (Delta) variant, and with (Texas Education Agency) and the governor’s commitment that we will open 100% in-person with no options of virtual instruction for anyone, I think it is our obligation to use every tool in our toolbox to not only protect our ISD staff but the children, the school district, ” said Trustee Miguel Arredondo, who sponsored the agenda item. “I think that this is important and timely and this guarantees us that if we have 10 more employees take advantage of this stipend because it exists and they get vaccinated then that’s 10 more employees who are hopefully protected that don’t have to take sick leave or emergency-paid sick leave because of a covid diagnosis.”

The COVID-19 Vaccination Stipend will cost SMCISD approximately $300,000, according to James Barton, district assistant superintendent of business and support services. The district estimates that 75% of all SMCISD employees have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, said Doug Wozniak, district director of safety and health services. 

The trustees spent nearly an hour discussing the stipend as well as an additional motion which would’ve provided two additional days of leave for all district employees who received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Hansen said she couldn’t support the incentive because the trustees have already provided employees with a raise combined with the district facing a $1 million deficit.

“I don’t think that it’s a good use of taxpayer monies to continue to reward people for doing what they’ve done themselves for their own health, the health of their family and I don’t think $250 is going to be enough to convince somebody who hasn’t taken the vaccine right now to go out and get it,” Hansen said. 

Citing concerns about the cost of the incentive, the trustees pondered if they could utilize ESSER III federal grant funding to cover the cost. Barton said the district already applied to the Texas Education Agency for ESSER III funding but could make an adjustment to use the federal monies for the vaccine stipend.

As discussion continued, Arredondo offered up an additional motion which aimed to provide two days of leave to all SMCISD employees who received and will receive COVID-19 vaccination. Trustee Mayra Mejia said she was in support of Arredondo’s proposal.

“I think we have to look at it in the way that COVID-19 vaccines aren’t 100% effective,” Mejia said. “Despite the fact that I am fully vaccinated since March, I can still get covid, especially with the Delta variant increasing. So, I support trustee Arredondo’s proposal of two sick days … for everyone. So, despite the fact that our employees may be already vaccinated … we should still give them two sick days. They can still get covid.”

The board approved the COVID-19 vaccination stipend. But the motion to provide district employees with two additional days of leave failed, 3-4, with trustees Anne Halsey, Arredondo and Mejia voting in favor. 

Employees are set to receive the stipend in October, which will give an opportunity for employees who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine to do so, Barton said. 

Employees who receive the one-time COVID-19 vaccination stipend and resign during the 2021-22 school year for health-related reasons will be expected to reimburse the district.

San Marcos Record

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