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Milwaukee Public Schools families with students age 5-11 will be eligible for $100 incentives for vaccinating those students — the same offer that was extended earlier for older students.
School board members approved the plan in a meeting Thursday, when they also voted for a $250 pandemic-related bonus for most staff members while the district is working to cover nearly 150 teacher vacancies.
The payments come as COVID-19 cases have risen again in Wisconsin and within Milwaukee schools. MPS reported 88 students and 41 staff tested positive last week, the highest total since early October.
State health officials warned this week that case numbers statewide are higher than they’ve been since the end of 2020, outpacing case rates during the surge of the delta variant in September. In Milwaukee, daily case numbers have not surpassed those seen over the summer, though they are rising.
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State health officials said they hope vaccinations, which reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 15 times, will prevent a winter surge that threatens to overwhelm already-full hospitals managing a severe flu season.
“The slope of the curve looks similar to last fall; we hope that the peak isn’t as high,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases. “We need more people vaccinated.”
$100 incentive for kids
If the incentive payments for children ages 5-11 are distributed the same way as for those 12 and older, parents and guardians will be able to complete an online application to provide proof of vaccination and receive a $100 reward card.
Students ages 5-11 need to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 14 to qualify for the payment, administrators said.
The incentive for students 12 and older closed Nov. 15 and has not been extended.
Children ages 5 and older, along with any residents, can get vaccinated without an appointment at clinics held by the Milwaukee Health Department:
Friday, Nov. 19:
- Allen-Field Elementary, 730 W. Lapham Blvd., 9:30 a.m.-noon
- Prince of Peace, 1114 S. 25th St., 1-4:30 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 22:
- Bethune Academy, 1535 N. 35th St., 9:30 a.m.-noon
- St. Catherine, 2647 N. 51st St., 1-4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 23:
- LaFollette Public School, 3239 N. 9th St., 9:30 a.m.-noon
- Benjamin Franklin Elementary, 2308 W. Nash St., 1-4 p.m.
According to the most recent data from the Milwaukee Health Department, about 43% of city residents ages 12-15 have received one shot and 38% are fully vaccinated. About 45% of those 16-19 have received one shot and 40% are fully vaccinated.
Health officials have not yet released information about how many children ages 5-11 have been vaccinated since they became eligible Nov. 3, citing reporting issues with Walgreens.
$250 bonus for staff
The staff bonus was not defined as a vaccine incentive but as a thank-you for continuing to work through the pandemic.
“There’s been a lot of press nationally about the stress people have been under, having to cover extra classes, do extra work, always in fear of getting the virus,” said Bob Peterson, school board president. “I want to thank all staff in MPS for how they’ve been working hard to get us through this pandemic.”
The district was short 145 teachers, 154 food service assistants and over 200 other staff positions as of a committee meeting Tuesday, administrators said.
The bonus will go to staff who are in benefits-eligible positions in the district, as well as part-time food service workers and building service helpers. Administrators said the goal was to provide the payments on paychecks going out Dec. 24.
The board had already implemented a vaccine requirement for staff, including exemptions for medical and religious reasons, with a deadline of Nov. 1.
As of Nov. 1, 15% of staff had not submitted proof or applied for exemptions, and administrators said they would continue working with those staff on compliance. As of Thursday, about 10% had still done neither. Board members did not discuss any consequences for those staff Thursday.
Of the 10,289 staff who have complied, 9,345 submitted proof of vaccination and 944 applied for exemptions, for a total staff vaccination rate of 82%.