Richardson ISD board discusses vaccine incentive for employees, opts not to move forward

People in a meeting.
The Richardson ISD board of trustees discuss a proposed COVID-19 vaccine incentive with district staff. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Richardson ISD board of trustees discuss a proposed COVID-19 vaccine incentive with district staff. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

After nearly 45 minutes of discussion about offering an incentive payment to district employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Richardson ISD board of trustees decided not to take any action on the topic during its Aug. 23 meeting.

The possibility of an incentive payment program was added to the meeting's agenda at the request of board President Karen Clardy.

"I needed [Superintendent Jeannie] Stone's input and [the board's] input about this and what we thought might be the best decision for this because I have had some teachers ask me about it," Clardy said.

In a document prepared for the board, Stone recommended trustees approve a one-time incentive payment of up to $500 to district employees who provide proof of a "complete COVID-19 vaccination."

"There is definitely an operational advantage for us to have our employees vaccinated," Stone said. "If a student in a classroom tests positive for COVID and the teacher is vaccinated, she is able to continue teaching. If she is not vaccinated, ... we're talking then [about the] loss of highly qualified teacher in the classroom."

If 100% of district employees receive vaccinations, Deputy Superintendent Tabitha Branum said the potential cost for the incentive program would be close to $3 million.

Clardy initially made a motion to approve the incentive program to allow the board to discuss the matter, she said. After most of the board's members expressed reservations with the potential incentive, Clardy rescinded her motion and the board approved the removal of the motion.

"This is a difficult situation because I understand the advantages of [being vaccinated]," trustee Eric Eager said during the discussion. "But people might have personal reasons why they don't [want a vaccine], and if they want to run that risk, that's their choice."

RISD's COVID-19 notification portal shows there were 120 active cases among students and 35 among employees on Aug. 23. The portal also shows there have been 187 total cases among students and 78 among employees since Aug. 2, when the data was reset for the current school year.

RISD began in-person learning Aug. 17.

The district's temporary, virtual classroom option for students in kindergarten through sixth grade began Aug. 23 and is scheduled to last through Oct. 15. RISD families registered 1,040 students for the program, which has students working with district teachers on curriculum both synchronously and asynchronously. District staff said that number had declined to 1,010 students after the first day of virtual learning Aug. 23.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include the planned end date for Richardson ISD's virtual classroom option.
By William C. Wadsack

Senior Reporter, Plano/Richardson

William joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2019. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana.


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