Yuba Community College District board members approved a plan on Sept. 9 requiring faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1 or to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing in order to attend courses or be present at any district-owned facility. 

Within the plan, the Yuba Community College District began a student vaccine incentive along with the additional hiring of contact tracers and the implementation of a contact tracing app that would help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The approved plan presented recommendations for a monetary incentive for students. The Yuba Community College District plans to follow a similar student incentive model developed by Allan Hancock College located in Santa Maria. Allan Hancock College distributed $250 gift cards to students as part of their vaccination incentive program to join the White House COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge. Yuba Community College District has yet to make decisions regarding the amount determined to be given and plans for gift cards to be used for direct costs related to a student’s educational needs. 

According to the budget plan, student vaccine incentives may cost up to $1,145,000 which will come from the American Rescue Plan which requires funds to be directly allocated to students.

“It is essentially to encourage public health practices and minimize the transmission of COVID-19,” said Sonja Lolland, vice chancellor of YCCD. “We haven’t finalized the student incentive plan but we think it may be similar in many of the components.”

All costs in the budget are planned to be covered by HEERF III Student Award Funding authorized by the American Rescue Plan, said Lolland. The student incentive was a recommendation from the California Community College system in which colleges and the State Chancellor shared the best practices within the community system to encourage student vaccinations, said Lolland.

The Allan Hancock College incentive model distributed gift cards on a first-come first-serve basis and was met with a line of hundreds of students waiting to show their vaccination status, according to KEYT-TV. The Yuba Community College District is considering something similar, but plans to distribute gift cards more efficiently to reduce transmission either electronically or through an appointment system.

The incentive is a voluntary program and Lolland has not heard of any complaints or concerns from Allan Hancock College administrators about using the incentive as a means of increasing student vaccine participation.

You can’t please everybody, said James Houpis, interim chancellor of Yuba Community College District, after being asked if there are any concerns that students and parents may view the plan as a way of buying vaccine participation.

“Many of our students struggle financially. It’s an incentive, but it’s also to help struggling students within the Yuba Community College District,” said Houpis. “A lot of our students are nontraditional, meaning they have families of their own and don’t live with their parents.”

Students will most likely be asked to provide their proof of vaccination before they register for classes, said Houpis. In order to gather vaccine information, the school district will need to collect the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act authorizations from students and faculty.

To further develop the plan, contact tracers and COVID managers will be hired. According to the plan’s budget, $250,000 could potentially be used for staffing. As of now, YCCD plans to hire contact tracers for the district facilities of Woodland Community College, Yuba College and the district office. However, these are fluid decisions because the work may shift, said Houpis.

“We are looking right now to hire up to four contact tracers and one COVID manager,” said Lolland. “It’s an estimated budget. We don’t know how long COVID is going to go on but these are temporary short-term positions.”

Currently, colleges within the YCCD use their staff and administration to help conduct contact tracing among students and employees. This will further prevent obscuring staff members from their actual duties, said Lolland. 

YCCD also plans to use access to technology to help with contact tracing. An app is being developed that can maintain a record of a seating chart, making it easier to trace any positive cases of COVID-19. Within the app, students would scan a QR code in their desk to mark where they are sitting during a course or lecture and who was in proximity to them. Other app features could include a self-screening to step foot on any campus facility. YCCD plans to roll out this app district wide by the beginning of the spring semester. 

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