De Blasio dismisses fears of a DOE staffing crunch due to vaccine mandate


NEW YORK — Tuesday morning, public schools across the five boroughs will find out how the Department of Education’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees will affect staffing levels. Those who aren’t vaccinated can’t come to work.

What You Need To Know

  • Teachers and principal unions say they’re concerned over staffing, given Monday’s COVID-19 vaccination deadline for school employees
  • 81% of Department of Education employees are vaccinated, including 87% of teachers
  • “We have thousands” of substitute teachers, Mayor de Blasio said

“My concern come Tuesday morning is the fact that, I think schools — my school included —  we’re not quite certain what to anticipate,” said Anne Wine, who is also a chapter leader at the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

Wine is an art teacher at P.S. 150 in Long Island City, Queens. She’s concerned about a staffing shortage and competing with other schools for substitute teachers.

“They’re not gonna get 20 or 30 subs. And if they get 10 subs, what’s gonna happen to a school like mine that might only need two or three but is unable to secure those positions?” Wine said.

The principals’ and teachers’ unions held a virtual news conference over their concerns. The head of the teachers’ union laid out what he called a nightmare scenario:

“Monday night at midnight, a school finds out that it’s missing X number of staff and the school cannot get enough people in the following day, and then the school is put into a horrendous situation where, ‘All right, I’m gonna put five classrooms in the auditorium,’” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

The labor leaders said their unions have the highest rate of vaccinated members.

According to the Department of Education, 81% of city education department employees are vaccinated, including 87% of teachers as of Thursday.

That means 19% of DOE employees, and 13% of teachers, won’t be able to go into school buildings Tuesday unless they get their first shot by midnight Monday.

“I’ve heard from several schools that have anywhere from between 30 and a hundred people currently on their non-compliant list,” said Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said the mandate encourages education workers to get vaccinated, and maintains there are only hundreds of approved medical or religious exemptions, out of a Department of Education workforce of more than 100,000. He dismissed worries of a staffing shortage.

“We are ready,” de Blasio said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “Even to the tune of, if we need thousands, we have thousands.”

Wine said she did not find his remarks assuring and that, on Tuesday, she would do her best to teach where she’s needed.

“I’ve learned as a teacher personally you always try to be flexible, you always try to do the best you can do, and for me no matter what situation I would be put in, it’s always, always going to be about the students,” Wine said.


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