Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Vaccinations, Screening Testing, and Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities

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Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Vaccinations, Screening Testing, and Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities

On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Ed. shared a letter on its most recent efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19 on our public school communities and increase the vaccination rates amongst school staff and students. As a part of these efforts, the Department is asking the following requests listed below of superintendents.

  • First, stand up for a vaccination clinic at your school sites, and for state officials. To help in this effort, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a toolkit available here. This toolkit was developed in consultation with the White House, with recommendations on how to effectively work with your local health partners to stand up a vaccine clinic for your staff and eligible students and their families as soon as possible. To learn more about the Health Center Program, please click here
  • Second, the Department is asking superintendents to launch a campaign to encourage eligible students, parents, and staff to get vaccinated and share with them the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and why they are critical to protecting individuals from COVID-19 and lowering community transmission. Please share this information with limited English proficient parents and students by providing it in their primary languages. The Department is encouraging superintendents to use their voices and platforms to encourage students and parents to get vaccinated and to organize events in their community this summer and in the lead up to school reopening focused on vaccination and reopening. As a recommendation, USED encourages partnerships with community, faith-based organizations, labor, and others to get students and/families vaccinated. Superintendents can also collaborate with student leaders to make these efforts fun and get young people to participate.
  • As part of these efforts, The Department is also encouraging superintendents to consider implementing creative incentives and initiatives to boost excitement and vaccine participation and use these opportunities to partner with local community-based programs, including early childhood education providers. For example, Ohio has created in-state scholarship lotteries for students who get vaccinated; in Los Angeles, secondary schools that exceed a 30% vaccination rate will receive $5,000 grants, and Head Start programs have partnered with a school district and local hospital to host vaccination satellite sites; and teens in Detroit are leading virtual sessions for their classmates encouraging them to sign up for vaccines. 

The Department is also supportive of providing incentives to students and their household members to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As some may recall, this activity is an allowable use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds. An FAQ on the GEER and ESSER Fund is available here. Check out this FAQ document for more information about uses funds for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to support vaccinations and COVID-19 testing for teachers, faculty, staff, and eligible students.

Finally, another important component of creating safe school environments is COVID-19 screening testing. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded funding from the American Rescue Plan to all states to support COVID-19 testing in schools. You can click here for more information on how to set up a screening testing program for a school that will ensure for safe operations in every district by the fall.