NEW YORK - All New York City public school teachers and other staffers will have to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, officials said Monday as the nation's largest school system prepares for classes to start next month.
The city previously said teachers, like other city employees, would have to either get the shots or be tested weekly for the virus. The new policy marks the first flat-out vaccination mandate for city workers in the nation's most populous city.
So if you want to work in a New York City public school, then you need to get a COVID-19 shot in your arm.
"This will require that all staff of every kind — principals, teachers, staff, custodians, you name it — must have at least one dose by September 27," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The mandate covers approximately 148,000 school employees and contractors who work in school settings across the five boroughs.
New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said the mandate is on top of measures already in place, such as universal mask usage, physical distancing, health screenings, testing, and improved ventilation.
At least 63% of school employees already are vaccinated. That figure doesn't include those who may have gotten their shots outside the city.
The United Federation of Teachers suggested this mandate won't be so easy to implement.
"Our first priority is keeping our kids safe and the schools open. The city's teachers have led the way on this issue, with the great majority already vaccinated," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. "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."
De Blasio said the city will start bargaining with the unions this week to go over details, including what the penalty will be for employees who choose not to get vaccinated.
"However you slice it, this mandate is moving forward," de Blasio said.
Susie Gould is breathing a sigh of relief since her 9-year-old daughter, Maddie, isn't eligible for the shot yet.
"I think having them vaccinated helps protect our children, especially the younger ones who aren't eligible to be vaccinated," Gould told FOX 5 NY. "So I feel much better about sending her to school, knowing that the people that she's going to be exposed to have the vaccine."
Dr. Yasmin Khakoo, a pediatrician and mom, said she is hopeful about sending her 17-year-old daughter back to school.
"This is her senior year in high school. I want her to have every opportunity to do all the things she didn't get to do last year on faith," Khakoo said. "And I hope that the delta variant isn't going to put a damper on this."
School starts Sept. 13 for the city's roughly 1 million public school students.
New York City last week began requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurant dining rooms, gyms and many other public places, a first-in-the-nation policy that a few other cities have copied since it was announced. Meanwhile, New York state announced last week that hospital and nursing home workers would have to get inoculated.
Vaccine mandates for teachers are fairly rare so far in the U.S., though Washington state, for one, says teachers must be inoculated or face dismissal. Vaccinate-or-test requirements are a bit more common.
A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Americans say students and teachers should be required to wear face masks while in school, and that teachers and eligible students should also be required to get vaccinated. But Democrats and Republicans differ sharply on these issues, the poll found.
With The Associated Press.