NYC schools vaccine mandate in effect; estimated 15K staffers refuse vaccine

An estimated 15,000 employees of New York City's Department of Education will not be allowed into work Monday, after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

While Mayor Bill de Blasio insists the city has more than enough substitutes ready to step in, a smooth implementation of this vaccine mandate may prove more difficult than expected. 

"There’s still like very legitimate questions about how this is going to play out," says Alex Zimmerman, a writer for Chalkbeat. 

As of Monday, 95% of all staff for the Department of Education has at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, said de Blasio during a briefing from City Hall. 96% of teachers and 99% of principals have also received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

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More than 43,00 doses of the vaccine were given after the mandate was announced, added de Blasio.

That still leaves approximately 5,000 unvaccinated educators in the nation's largest school district. 

"We might see some administrators come in, or even some central staff who have teaching licenses," Zimmerman predicts, "there could be an all-hands-on deck quality to this at some schools."

Some schools stretched too thin could mean a shortage of classroom aides who are there to help students with disabilities.

"Our parents need to know their kids will be safe," the mayor said. "They entrust us with their children. That's what this mandate is all about. Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated, and that's going to be the rule going forward."

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined de Blasio's virtual briefing and hailed the vaccine mandate. 

"You're doing it right," Cardona said. "Students need to be in the classroom. They need to be safe and we need to make sure we're doing everything possible to let our staff get vaccinated and make sure that our schools are as safe as possible."

The mayor had warned that unvaccinated school employees would be placed on unpaid leave and not be allowed to work this week. The city planned to bring in substitutes where needed.

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Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said she did not know exactly how many employees had declined the shots and been put on leave.

There are also concerns about a lack of school safety agents. the vaccination rate among those NYPD employees are significantly lower than that of D.O.E. Republican City Councilmember, Joe Borelli, who represents Staten Island, says some schools in his district are going from 13 safety agents to 3 or 4. 

"No one from the DOE can really give us an understanding of how the school is safer by having less than half the number of school safety agents," Borelli says, "and they left these principals with really no guidance on what they should do."

The President of the city's principal union echoed those concerns. 

"Though this additional week has been helpful, we still have concerns about staffing at some schools, particularly regarding safety agents and paraprofessionals," Mark Cannizzaro wrote in a statement. 

With the Associated Press