PUTNAM CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – A new cash incentive has been launched to get Putnam City Schools employees vaccinated. A district spokesperson said the $3.2 million dollars in federal funding going towards these stipends is money well spent.
“It’s to provide a safer environment for those who are most vulnerable who cannot or have not been able to get that vaccine, and those are young, little kids that aren’t eligible to get a vaccine,” Spokeswoman Kathleen Kennedy told KFOR.
The district is offering a one time, $1,000 stipend to any full-time or part-time worker that gets the shot by October 1 and provides proof. The money for the stipends comes from Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.
“The employees are very receptive to it and appreciated that,” Kennedy said of the initiative.
She said of the roughly 2,500 employees in the district, 1,200 of them have gotten vaccinated at a district-run vaccination clinic. They don’t track those that get the shot elsewhere.
Megan Scott, a mother of a second grader at Arbor Grove Elementary, is also appreciative of the push.
“I’m really glad that they’re doing that and incentivizing their teachers and staff to get it,” she shared. “Because my kid can’t be vaccinated. So, the only way to protect her is to have masks in place, have social distancing and everyone else around her be vaccinated who can be.”
Also this week, the district updated the language in their back-to-school plan, which now says any one inside a Putnam City Schools building is “expected” to wear a mask.
“‘Expectation’ is a stronger wording that we can use rather than we would like you to wear a mask,” Kennedy explained.
Some parents, like Scott, think stronger changes could have been made.
“We are glad that they finally put out that expectation, albeit a couple of weeks late,” she expressed. “We wish they would have a requirement.”
Kennedy said it’s against state law, Senate Bill 658, for them to mandate masks.
“But we can set expectations,” she reiterated. “We set them for our students every day in the classroom, and this is another expectation that we can have a very good quality education this year.”
To help the district with its struggle to hire substitute workers, they’re also offering a vaccine stipend of up to $1,000 to subs. Since the announcement Monday, 13 people have applied for those positions. Kennedy reports the district only has about 100 substitutes right now compared to about 300 before the pandemic.