PSJA will offer $25 gift cards to vaccinated students
The PSJA School Board has approved the expenditure of $692,000 in federal funds to provide students vaccinated against COVID-19 with a $25 gift card in an effort to increase vaccination rates and ultimately help increase on-campus enrollment.
The district will use ESSER funds to pay for the gift cards, which are part of the district’s voluntary immunization incentive program that the board approved Monday.
Current PSJA ISD students ages 5 and up will be eligible for a one-time $25 gift card as long as they can show proof of being vaccinated by April 21.
The district expects some 27,000 students to be eligible.
PSJA Director of Health Services Sulema Solis said the district is the first in the region to launch an incentive program for students.
She hopes this will help the district come up with a more accurate number on student vaccination rates. So far, she said, the district knows about 9% of its student body is vaccinated.
“However, there may be many others who simply have not brought the documentation to us, we cannot demand it from them,” Solis said. “But we hope that with this incentive, it will allow them to bring us this documentation, we can have a better idea of the number of people who have been vaccinated.
A driving factor behind the program appears to be bringing students back to campus in person.
Over the past few weeks, PSJA administrators have expressed concern about enrollment numbers, an ongoing concern for most districts in the Rio Grande Valley.
Less than a tenth of students in the district are currently learning virtually, a spokesperson said Tuesday.
Solis told the board that the administration expects a robust vaccination percentage among the student body to allay fears and get children back to their classrooms.
“Once the general, the mass of students are vaccinated, I hope we will bring all of our students back,” she said.
Administrator Jesus “Jesse” Zambrano noted that he would like to see some kind of district initiative that encouraged students to come back.
“We know it’s always a choice, but what are we going to do to bring them in person?” He asked.
Various factors affect eligibility for a gift card.
According to Solis, to be eligible for the incentive, students must receive their first and second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by April 21 to be eligible.
Proof of vaccination – an IMMTrac2 card or printout – will be accepted by all district nurses and at free vaccination clinics at PSJA ISD.
Solis noted that students who are already vaccinated are eligible for a gift card regardless of when they received the vaccine. People who did not receive the vaccine due to medical or religious exemptions are not eligible for the money.
A statement says families in the district have two opportunities to get vaccinated this week: Wednesday at PSJA Collegiate High School Santos Salinas Gym at 704 W. Ridge Road in San Juan; and Thursday at Jaime Escalante Middle School at 6123 S. Cage Blvd. in Phare
“Thank you to our school board for approving this measure to help us provide this incentive to our families,” PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo wrote in the statement. “We would also like to commend our PSJA Health Services Department and all team members who help us continue to provide this much needed service to our community.”
The district will announce the gift card distribution date in May, the statement said. Questions about the program can be answered through the PSJA COVID-19 hotline at (956) 354-2015.