New Yorker's protest NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's vaccine mandate at City Hall on Aug. 9. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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New York City decided over the summer that it would require all school staffers to be vaccinated or face losing their jobs. The deadline for all school employees to get jabbed is Monday, Sept. 27.
But there's a problem: Nearly 30,000 of Gotham's school staffers are unvaccinated, the New York Post reported, and come the first of next week, they'll have to hit the bricks.
Now the city's teacher and principal unions are calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to push back the Department of Education's Monday deadline over staffing concerns, the Post said Thursday night.
What's going on?
De Blasio announced Aug. 23 that all DOE employees — from teachers and principals to office staff and security officers to lunch workers and custodians — would be required to have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by Sept. 27. Those who refuse the jab and do not get a medical or religious exemption have the option of taking a year of unpaid leave or leaving the DOE with a severance package, according to Gothamist.
But there are still tens of thousands of NYC school staffers who are unvaccinated, including more than 10,000 teachers, and education officials and employee unions fear staffing shortages.
As of Tuesday, the Post said, 78% of all 130,000 school employees had been vaccinated, leaving about 28,600 who stand to lose their jobs Monday. This includes the 13% of the city's 78,000 teachers who have yet to get vaxxed.
According to the Post, though the DOE has refused to say how many teachers have applied for or received exemptions, union sources told the paper that "only a small fraction of accommodation requests are being granted."
Now unions representing teachers and principals are pushing City Hall to delay the vaccine deadline, warning of serious staff shortages in the coming days.
Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro blasted the city's "dangerous and irresponsible" intention to stick with the deadline in a statement Thursday, Gothamist reported.
"Any staffing shortage, especially during a pandemic, is a threat to the health and safety of both students and personnel," Cannizzaro said. "It is dangerous and irresponsible for the city to move forward with its plan to allow schools and centers to operate so severely understaffed. As a result, we are calling on the city to delay the deadline for the mandate to allow the city to develop a reasonable contingency plan."
The United Federation of Teachers agreed and called on de Blasio and the DOE to listen to school leaders "for once."
UFT head Micheal Mulgrew said, "The principals' union is right — our schools are not ready for the implementation of the vaccine mandate. I hope for once City Hall is listening to its own school leaders and finally starts to put together a reasonable plan to face the challenge of keeping our children safe."
Yet the mayor and NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter have remained steadfast and refused to move on the deadline, claiming that they have a contingency plan — namely that they could still pull in vaccinated substitute teachers and hire new staffers to replace anyone forced out by the mandate.
But the unions aren't buying it.
"Despite our repeated warnings, the city is ill prepared for the impact of the vaccination mandate on staffing in schools and early childhood centers with just four days to go before it takes effect," Cannizzaro said, according to Gothamist. "As a result, we are calling on the city to delay the deadline for the mandate to allow the city to develop a reasonable contingency plan."
New York State Supreme Court Judge Laurence Love lifted a temporary restraining order agains the mandate Wednesday, WABC-TV reported. Love said the unions "will be unable to establish a likelihood of ultimate success on the merits."
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