The status of up to 36,000 unvaccinated Department of Education workers — including more than 15,000 teachers — remains in limbo this week amid ongoing talks between the city and union representatives.
To combat COVID-19, City Hall mandated that all DOE employees get at least one shot by a Sept. 27th deadline or face possible removal from the payroll.
DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said Wednesday that 72 percent of all 130,000 agency employees had gotten at least one dose.
The remaining 28 percent represent more than 36,000 staffers in total.
Filson said that of the 78,000 city teachers in the DOE’s overall workforce, 74 percent have received a confirmed COVID-19 vaccination shot.
The United Federation of Teachers estimated Wednesday that the actual number is around 80 percent since some teachers sought vaccinations through private physicians or out of the city.
That would leave more than 15,000 city teachers who have still not gotten at least one dose with school starting on Monday.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter has stressed her belief that DOE employee vaccinations will accelerate as the school year starts and the jab deadline approaches.
City and union officials have repeatedly encouraged DOE workers to get vaccinated as a safeguard against the virus and the highly transmissible delta variant.
Some teacher groups have argued that unvaccinated colleagues are putting others at risk of infection and have threatened to walk off the job if forced to work alongside them.
UFT head Michael Mulgrew said Wednesday that the city backed off a threat to stop paychecks for unvaccinated DOE teachers even if they get a religious of medical exemption.
But the fate of unvaccinated DOE workers who don’t apply for or receive either pass remains unclear.
“In the wake of the UFT’s demand for independent arbitration, the city has backed off its initial position that teachers with medical and religious exemptions to the vaccine be removed from payroll,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “But there are still many details of how these exemptions will be applied — and how other teachers unwilling to take the vaccine will be treated — that are now being worked through with the arbitrator.”
De Blasio reiterated his position that all adults working in city schools will be vaccinated and that the measure will help to curb infections and disruptions throughout the year.
He said that the limited number of DOE staffers who receive vaccine exemptions on religious or medical grounds will not be severed from payroll.
“There’ll be a process to confirm them, but they will be honored,” he said at his daily briefing. “Those folks will continue to work for us in some capacity.”
But Hizzoner said a wider accord with the UFT is still being sought.
“We’re still in those negotiations, they’ve been intense,” he said. “We’re obviously hoping to resolve things. We’re in a process right now, an arbitration process. I don’t want to in any way, get ahead of that. Our goal is to settle these issues and move forward. But not every single one has been settled yet, and we obviously have to do that very, very quickly.”