NEW YORK (AP) — New York City teachers and other school staff members are supposed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the bell rings Monday morning, in one of the first school district mandates in the country requiring employees to be inoculated against the coronavirus.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a final warning to the city’s roughly 148,000 public school staffers, saying unvaccinated employees would be placed on unpaid leave and not be allowed to work this week. The city planned to bring in substitutes where needed.
Implementing the mandate smoothly may be a challenge for de Blasio, a Democrat who had boasted of the city’s record of keeping school buildings open during most of the last school year when other districts went to all-remote instruction. New York City is not offering a remote option this year. Children are seen in a New York City classroom on September 27. All teachers and staff in public city schools must be vaccinated as of Monday.
De Blasio said 90% of Department of Education employees had received at least one vaccine dose, including 93% of teachers and 98% of principals, as of Friday.
The vaccination mandate in the nation’s most extensive school system does not include a test-out option but does allow for medical and religious exemptions. It was supposed to go into effect last week but was delayed when a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction. An appeals panel reversed that decision three days later.
A similar mandate is set to go into effect in Los Angeles on October 15. Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of Schools Supervisors and Administrators, said that some principals couldn’t find enough staff to replace unvaccinated workers despite a surge in vaccinations last week.
“While we’re thankful that the percentage of vaccinated staff has increased systemwide since the deadline was extended, there are still too many school leaders that have been unable to find qualified substitutes for Monday,” Cannizzaro said.
A spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers said the city “needs to work hard to make sure enough vaccinated personnel are in place to open the schools Monday morning safely.”