D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) officials are urging parents to add COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of things students need to start school in the fall. They’ve set up three new school-based vaccination sites, and they’re throwing in some incentives to boot.
Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee said the school district noticed what was working to get adults vaccinated and “applied that to the K-12 environment.”
“I ended up getting the air pods. I like how they did something that they knew teenagers would like,” high school student Jabari Malloy said after receiving his vaccine Saturday.
Givone Meeks, another student, said “even though I kinda got forced, I came here for the $51 gift card.”
DCPS is focusing on students 12-17 years old for their end-of-summer vaccination push as the school district moves toward a return to in-person learning in the fall.
“Getting your child vaccinated is the best opportunity and best chance that we have to not only get in-person learning started again, but to make sure that it stays,” Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt, the director of the D.C. Department of Health, said.
Shots aren't mandatory, but D.C. does keep track of people who are vaccinated in the District. Ferebree said about 45% of school staff have reported their vaccine status, and of them, 95% report being vaccinated.
“The initial plan as school starts is for a weekly testing of a sample of kids until we learn more about the virus that suggests we should change that,” Nesbitt said.
In the event that a student tests positive, she said they will be required to learn from home with support from school staff until their isolation period is over.
“We will be working with all education partners to help them understand what it means for other students in that building,” Nesbitt added.
DCPS has also updated air handling and filtering systems in the schools, but the best system for preventing the spread of the virus is still vaccinating everyone who’s eligible. That’s where the incentives come in, which include eligibility for a $25,000 scholarship and an iPad.
And at least one student said they were getting their shot thanks to a timeless incentive -- “My mother made me do it.”
The three incentive sites are Sousa Middle School, Brookland Middle School and Johnson Middle School.