New York City schools will require every teacher and staff member to be vaccinated for the upcoming school year, the city announced Monday. The new policy is differentiated from one for city employees in general, who can submit regular coronavirus test results if they do not wish to receive vaccinations to protect against the virus.
The rule for school staff was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, who said that the requirement is a means to keep students healthy as they return to classrooms next month.
“Our schools must be safe spaces for our students,” Porter said, adding that staff vaccinations will provide students “another layer of protection” against coronavirus.
De Blasio reiterated Porter’s words during a press conference on Monday.
“We know this is going to help ensure that everyone is safe,” he said.
De Blasio also said a similar requirement for students themselves was “not on the table,” although the city has indicated that high school athletes in some high-risk sports would have to be vaccinated. Schools in New York City will also keep a masking requirement for all students and staff that was in place from last year.
New York City schools have nearly one million students currently enrolled, and around 148,000 staff members total.
Staff will need to have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by September 27, a few weeks after classes are set to resume. Proof of vaccination will need to be uploaded to an online portal.
It’s unclear how many teachers and other staff members have received their vaccinations so far because the city only knows the vaccination status of staff who live in the city itself. Based on numbers they do have, New York City schools says that, at present, at least 63 percent of staff members in the public school system are already fully vaccinated, and at least 75 percent have had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
The new rule is generally supported by the city’s largest teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), although its president, Michael Mulgrew, said negotiations were still required for how it would be implemented, and what, if any, exceptions to the rule would be allowed.
“While the city is asserting its legal authority to establish this mandate, there are many implementation details, including provisions for medical exceptions, that by law must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary, resolved by arbitration,” Mulgrew said in a statement.
The requirement for New York City schools staff and teachers to be vaccinated comes as coronavirus hospitalization rates for children have increased to unprecedented levels across the country. Last week, it was reported that more than 1,200 children were being seen in hospitals across the country on average per day, the highest hospitalization rate seen for children specifically since the pandemic began.