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Kokomo School Corporation employees can earn $750 by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the school year.

The school board approved the stipends Monday in an effort to encourage staff to get vaccinated.

Those eligible most show proof of vaccine on or before Aug. 2.

Vaccination is not required, but school officials hope employees will take advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated and do so before the start of the school year. This will minimize the number of people who might need to miss a day due to side effects.

And the more staff who are vaccinated means fewer people will have to quarantine in the event of contact tracing. A person does not have to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19 if they are vaccinated.

“We’re trying to avoid school disruptions,” superintendent Jeff Hauswald said during a work session last week. “We do worry next year it could impact our ability to keep schools open.”

Hauswald estimated it could cost up to $600,000, depending on how many people take advantage of the stipend. The payouts are afforded through pandemic relief funding, grants and district funds.

Dr. Emily Backer, Howard County health officer and clinic physician for Kokomo schools, supported the move.

“The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us and get on with more normal lives,” she said in a statement. “… It is important to remember that those under the age of 12 are not eligible for the vaccine yet, so by the rest of us getting vaccinated, we are helping to protect those under 12 from getting sick.”

Staff members who have already been vaccinated can also receive the $750 stipend.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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