Detroit schools using cash, extra sick days to get teachers, staff vaccinated

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Detroit Public Schools Community District is offering an incentive to teachers and many other employees who prove they've taken a COVID-19 vaccine: $500 and two sick days.

The incentive was announced Saturday in a letter by Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the district.

Roughly 35% of the district's employees have been vaccinated, Vitti said in a statement Thursday.

Chrystal Wilson, a spokeswoman, said the incentive applies to anyone who has been vaccinated and can prove it, or anyone who will be vaccinated by June 30.

The sick days are meant as a recovery period in the event an employee becomes ill after a shot, Wilson said. But Vitti's letter also says the days will remain in the employee's sick bank and every carry over to next year. 

No one is required to take a vaccine, the district says. Figures on how many employees have been vaccinated were not immediately available. 

Unions representing office employees and paraprofessionals had not initially agreed to the proposal, but as of Thursday, the paraprofessionals will take part in the incentive, Wilson said.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District

The incentives will be paid from federal stimulus money from last year's CARES Act, Wilson said. 

"The incentive is a way to promote the greatest protections to all employees as we work to stop the spread of COVID, while respecting the individual's choice to not vaccinate," Wilson said. 

The district has started mandatory weekly saliva surveillance testing for all employees, Wilson said. That started with a single site, at Renaissance High School on the west side, but next week, when learning centers reopen, it will expand to other school buildings.

Employees also take regular COVID-19 questionnaires. 

If someone tests positive, they need a negative test to return to work, Wilson said. 

"The idea is to get students back in schools — those who want to attend in person — as soon as possible, and to do it safely," Wilson said.

Twitter: @downi75