INDIANAPOLIS — The Anderson Community School district hopes money more than talks. It is counting on cash to convince workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
Half of Anderson's school teachers and other workers said they are vaccinated or plan to be. Administrators want to reward them and get the other half shots in their arms by offering a cash incentive.
"The comments I've gotten so far are surprise. 'You mean we are going to get paid for this? Yes you are,'" said Joe Cronk, interim superintendent.
With every employee vaccinated getting $150, it could cost the district as much as $150,000 worth of federal CARES Act dollars. The price tag, Cronk said, justifies the results.
"I am trying to keep classrooms open. I am trying to keep schools open," he explained. "I am trying to keep education flowing so I can get kids in front of teachers to get direct face to face education."
The pandemic has been a rough and disruptive ride for teachers and students. Closing schools, switching from virtual learning back to in person learning has taken a terrible toll on how much students are learning.
In March, Anderson's schools found that absenteeism had soared and that one out of every four middle and high school students were failing all their classes.
"If I can get my staff vaccinated such that they don't catch the disease," Cronk said. He went on to explain that if teachers and other employees are exposed to COVID-19, they won't have to be quarantined and removed from work.
Although the vaccinations are strongly encouraged and rewarded with cash, they are not required.
"I think if we were trying to mandate it, we would face legal hurdles such that it would cost too much disruption," he said.
Instead of a disruption, Anderson's schools hope the $150 incentive creates a rush on vaccinations that will keep teachers safe and students learning.