After a week of twists and turns for the fate of Mayor de Blasio’s mandate for all 150,000 educators and staffers to be vaccinated with at least one dose, the policy is slated to go into effect starting next Monday.
The mayor’s plan was delayed nearly a week from its original start date when a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction against the vaccine mandate extending to nearly all Department of Education staff last Friday.
By Monday a federal appeals court removed the order stalling the plan, thus clearing the way for the DOE to enforce it. In the wake of the court ruling, the mayor clarified that educators and other staff will need to get a shot by the end of the day Friday.
As the vaccine policy worked its way through the legal hurdles in fits and starts, the unions representing teachers and principals warned of staff shortages from employees refusing the inoculation.
De Blasio has maintained that schools will be able to manage any teacher shortages with DOE’s substitute pool.
“We are not hearing, so far, any instance of a school where the numbers of folks who will be out are more than we can address. And I think some people say that they are going to leave when this finally comes into place they’re going to leave, but they have to make a really big decision. Do they really want to give up on their kids and the school community? Do they want to give up a paycheck?” de Blasio said at a Monday press event.
As of Wednesday morning, the DOE announced that 89 percent of all employees — with 92 percent of teachers and 97 percent of principals — had gotten at least one dose. The United Federation of Teachers, which has its own numbers of members who received shots, has cited the level at 95 percent.
Superintendent of Central Queens School District 24 Madelene Chan told parents at a Community Education Council meeting on Tuesday night that the number of unvaccinated teachers is quickly decreasing as the mandate approaches. Parents showed up to the meeting concerned about the effects of the mandate, and raised questions on how understaffing would impact students with learning disabilities, who often require co-teaching.
The UFT pushed back on the news of the court’s decision to allow the mandate, citing a recent survey of union chapter leaders in which “about one-third believe that as of now their schools can open without disruption,” emphasizing a lack of “school aides and security personnel.” On Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said about 74 percent of the department’s school safety agent division, with about 4,400 officers, had been vaccinated.
Before the court decision was announced, both the UFT and the principals union, the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, had raised alarms that the number of absent teachers would create larger staffing crunches in some schools than others, and called on the DOE to share school-specific figures on how many people have uploaded their vaccination cards to the portal that the city has created for school personnel to do so.
Across the borough, CEC leaders said that they had not gotten any comprehensive updates on how many teachers would be missing from individual schools in their district.
Some, like CEC 26 President Adriana Aviles, expressed concerns about the scattered reports she had heard from teachers who said that they were planning to quit. Others, like CEC 28 President Vijah Ramjattan, were not as worried that their districts were in danger of staff shortages.
“We trust that our teachers will do the right thing and get the shot,” he said.