After being offered a $300 incentive, 71% of Indianapolis Public Schools staffers has reported receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, district officials said.
The vaccination rate is higher among teachers and principals—more than 80%—and lower among classified staff such as custodians and food service workers, said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson.
IPS asked its staff to report their vaccination status on a voluntary basis, offering $300 to those who submitted proof of vaccination by Sept. 30. With more than 2,600 employees responding, the district spent $827,000 in federal relief funds on the vaccination incentive, officials said.
Neither IPS nor the state have required teachers to be vaccinated. The Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test rule applies to public schools in Indiana, but the attorney general has challenged the mandate. The rule has been temporarily blocked while states’ lawsuits go through a federal appeals court.
IPS has also asked students 12 and older, who have been eligible for the vaccine since the spring, to voluntarily report their vaccination status. District officials have not indicated how many students have submitted their information.
In Marion County, 42% of children ages 12-15 have been fully vaccinated, according to local health data, and 48% of people ages 16-24.
Johnson said the district could consider providing a vaccination incentive for students but needs to be careful to not run afoul of a state law prohibiting financial incentives for enrollment.
“We’ve not yet had that conversation, but that might be certainly something that we’re willing to explore,” she said.
Vaccinated students and staff in IPS do not have to be quarantined if they do not have symptoms after being exposed to a positive case of COVID-19.
The district still requires everyone in IPS buildings and on school buses to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Although children 5 and older are now able to be vaccinated against COVID-19, IPS is not considering rolling back its mask requirement, Johnson said.
“I vividly remember last winter and the struggles of navigating last winter,” Johnson said, referring to the spikes in case counts that led to restrictions on in-person learning. “And so in terms of taking away any of those safety protocols we have in place right now as we enter the winter season, that’s not a decision I’d be advocating for us to make right now.”
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.