NYC Vaccine Mandate Begins for Private, Religious School Employees

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Reporter
December 20, 2021 Updated: December 20, 2021

New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate came into effect on Monday for all teachers and staff who work with children in nonpublic schools.

The mandate, announced on Dec. 2 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is expected to affect about 56,000 employees at 930 schools across the city. It requires that every nonpublic school terminate any staff member who has not provided proof of at least the first dose of a two-dose vaccine by Dec. 20, and submit an initial affirmation of compliance with the requirements to the city’s health department by Dec. 28.

There will be “reasonable accommodations” for school staff in accordance with applicable laws, such as the federal disability rights law, according to the order (pdf).

“We’re doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff, and a mandate for nonpublic school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe,” the outgoing mayor said in a statement.

The order has since faced opposition from a coalition of nonpublic schools throughout the city. Rabbi David Zwiebel, chairman of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials, sent a letter to de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, asking them to reconsider the vaccine mandate .

“While we support and generally encourage COVID vaccination in our schools and while in fact the large majority of our schools’ employees are so vaccinated, most of our schools do not insist upon such vacciantion as a condition of employment,” the letter read. “Many of our schools view COVID vaccination as a matter most appropriately left to individual choice, not a governmental fiat. This is an area where government should be using its bully pulpit to persuade, not its regulatory arm to coerce.”

Zwiebel also argued that the practical impact of the mandate “could be devastating to our schools and the children they serve,” noting that some teachers would surely resist vaccination and therefore lose their jobs.

“In an era where finding high quality teachers and staff is so difficult even at the beginning of the school year, finding high quality replacement staff in the middle of the school year may be impossible,” he wrote in the letter. “Some schools may even be forced to close because of the severe shortage of teachers.”

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of New York, which oversees more than 200 Catholic schools serving over 62,000 students from pre-K through 12th grade, said they would review the mandate before determining its response.

“Once we receive formal notification from the City, we will review the mandate to determine this order’s relevance and applicability to our Catholic schools, and any potential response,” the archdiocese’s schools office said in a Dec. 8 statement to Catholic News Agency.

“An increasing majority of our teachers and school staffs have already been vaccinated, and we continue to urge others to do so; those that are not vaccinated are tested weekly,” it added.

Another upcoming vaccine mandate will apply to all private-sector workers in New York City, affecting approximately 184,000 businesses. The order will require workers who perform in-person work or interact with the public to provide proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 27.

In addition, the existing proof of vaccine requirements for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment will be expanded to cover children ages 5 to 11, according to a toughened vaccination policy announced by de Blasio.

Bill Pan
Reporter