ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Public School District is offering a $750 bonus for every fully vaccinated district employee.
The district said the employees will receive the bonus sometime before winter break. This comes one day before the district’s vaccine deadline.
In August, the school board unanimously voted to approve a vaccine mandate for all district staff and set the deadline to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.
Byron Clemens, a spokesperson for AFT St. Louis Local 420, which represents some district staff has backed the mandate and said Thursday they were pleased to see the incentive.
Clemens said about 95.3 percent of its approximately 2000 union members are vaccinated. This means about 94 union members could face termination if they are not vaccinated.
Clemens said they are seeing more staff comply and said he believes the number of those facing termination will actually be lower.
A district spokesperson said in an email Thursday, “If someone has a change of heart at the last minute, they would find leadership willing to work with them to keep them in the fold. Those who have already been released were told that was the case, but still refused the vaccine.”
While the deadline to be fully vaccinated is still set for Friday, the district and union said they will work with staff who have had a change of heart and will get vaccinated.
“It’s still not too late, people could run out and get their vaccination right now and still comply with the mandate,” Clemens said.
The district also announced it is increased pay for substitute teachers, this comes as the district has been dealing with a staffing shortage. During Tuesday night’s board meeting, Superintendent Kelvin Adams said the district was short about 240 staff members.
He did not say if that included any members who left or were terminated because of the mandate.
“We have a little bit of a shortage, even before the pandemic,” Clemens said.
An educator in the district, who did not want to be identified, said she is facing termination after her religious exemption was denied twice.
“My greatest concern and the teachers that are being terminated is the students, we are already so short-staffed and struggling as it is,” the educator said. “We want to work, we want to be here, we love our students and our parents.”
“Why can’t we test, rather than be terminated?” the educator asked. “I’m going to look for another job probably with a school district because I’m called to be a teacher. It’s my heart, I’m a third-generation educator.”