SIERRA VISTA — In a vote of 4-0, the Sierra Vista Unified School District Governing Board approved a COVID-19 vaccine incentive for all district employees who are fully vaccinated.

SVUSD Public Information Officer Valerie Weller said the program offers five additional sick days to employees who are fully vaccinated, which is defined as a person whose received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and a booster shot, or the single sequence of the J&J vaccine and the booster shot.

She said the program is voluntary; if an employee wants to participate, they must provide proof of vaccination to the district office and begin the vaccination process by June 30, 2022.

SVUSD Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes said the district has a total of 605 COVID-19 cases and 1,649 quarantines since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year in August.

“As you know, our No. 1 goal is to keep our schools open and keep our students and staff here with us,” said Holmes during Wednesday evening’s meeting.

“There is a real need to stabilize the district’s workforce around this current surge of COVID-19 cases,” Holmes continued. “The administration is proposing to incentivise employees who voluntarily decide to receive the vaccine in (an) effort to keep our Sierra Vista Unified School District staff, students and families safe and healthy.”

The vaccine incentive wasn’t met without opposition from members of the public.

Donald Lee, a parent of a SVUSD student, expressed his opposition to the vaccine incentive.

“If you’re going to incentivize those vaccines, you better be ready to stand behind the side effects and the lawsuits that come with those incentives,” said Lee during the public comments section.

Lee was among multiple members of the public who expressed their opposition to the district’s mask mandate, questioning its necessity, effectiveness and asking the board to add the topic to the next agenda for discussion and vote.

“I have watched parent after parent after concerned citizen come before you to request that the mask mandate be put back on the agenda,” said Lee, who added that he has emailed SVUSD Board President Yulonda Boutte about the topic.

He said that since the CDC updated its guidance on Jan. 14, recommending people to wear the most protective mask — with cloth masks having the lowest level of protection and KN-95 masks and N95 respirators having the highest — that the cost of KN-95 masks is too expensive and that the district should be instead addressing the turnover rate of employees.

“KN-95 masks are very expensive,” Lee said. “If that is not in the budget or an option for the district, than the district board should remove the mask mandate ... A common theme I have heard at the board meetings is ‘we’re doing the best we can.’ If that is adequate, then why the high turnover rate and loss of student enrollment?

“Let’s be the district that parents want to send their kids to, not the one we have to because there are very few other options.”

Steven Robles, another member of the public, also expressed his opposition to the district’s mask mandate.

“I can’t imagine having to have my child wear a mask all day while at school, trying to learn,” said Robles. “Official expressions are tied to emotions. How sad that this board has taken that from the student you claim to care about? Emotions are a crucial part of development for young children, and lack of recognizing them can lead to great consequences.”

Chelle Pace, a Sierra Vista resident and parent of an SVUSD student, said she conducted a Jan. 13 poll on the Chit Chat Sierra Vista Facebook page about whether masks should or should be not required to be worn at school.

“Out of 375 votes of community citizens, 286 people choose to have the choice to mask or not their children in school — that is 76% of the votes,” said Pace. “I think that speaks volumes about our community.”