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NYC Teachers Union Concerned About Potential Staffing Issues As Vaccine Deadline Approaches

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City schools are getting ready for a big test as the city's vaccine mandate takes effect in just a few days.

All Department of Education employees must get their first COVID-19 shot by Monday or risk losing their jobs.

Some worry that could lead to a teacher shortage.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's in good shape, but the teachers' union said there is no contingency plan for next week.

"Hopefully they'll all be here on Monday," said parent Eddie Venegas.

Venegas has high hopes for the staff at his daughter's school, Public School 17 in Astoria.


All city Department of Education employees must have at least one COVID vaccine shot by 5 p.m. Monday, or risk losing their jobs.

"Even if there's a shortage of staff, it's better than having people not vaccinated in our schools," Venegas said.

The teachers' union said it has encouraged its members to get vaccinated, but called out the mayor for having no contingency plan for potential staffing problems next week.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said as of now about 6,000 of their 120,000 members remain unvaccinated.

"On Tuesday, are we going to have a school where we're putting 150 children inside of an auditorium with two teachers because the city has not prepared properly?" Mulgrew asked.

Brooklyn Councilman and Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger also expressed concern on Twitter.

"Hearing DOE central staff is being told many will be redeployed into schools to address anticipated staff shortages next week. However, it is unclear if they are required to teach. They may only supervise. Plus, schools are expecting disruption in school food and cleaning services," Treyger wrote.

"We have thousands and thousands of vaccinated, experienced substitute teachers ready to go. That's the obvious first go-to. But it's also true that central staff has thousands of educators, certified educators who could step into different roles if needed," de Blasio said.

On Wednesday night, a judge ruled in the city's favor, allowing the vaccine mandate to proceed for now, after the UFT and other unions sued.

"The reality we're seeing right now is we think the overwhelming majority of our educators and staff are going to be there on Monday having gotten that first dose and moving forward," de Blasio said.


Back in Astoria, many parents told Grymes they're in favor of the mandate, which was handed down three weeks before school started.

"I'm concerned with staffing shortages but I'm more concerned with living," said grandparent Rob Patterson.

"I understand, too, just being told they have to be vaccinated by a certain date with not much time, not much notice. So I understand, you know, why they'd be upset, but everyone should be vaccinated," said parent Jason Greene.

The principal's union has called on the city to delay the deadline for the mandate.

In response, the DOE said, "The vast majority of employees have been vaccinated and the number will continue to rise over the coming days. We administered 7,000 vaccinations on school campuses across the city last week, hired thousands of new teachers and staff, and have a large reserve of qualified workers who are ready to fill in if needed."

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she is prepared for Monday, when the state will start enforcing a vaccine deadline for health care workers.

The governor said Thursday she's reaching out to other countries about possible backup. Her administration is already talking to the State Department about temporary visas.

WATCH: Gov. Hochul Gives Latest COVID Update In New York 

"To have some temporary workers come in from places like the Philippines, where many nurses go elsewhere. I literally had this conversation with the prime minister of Ireland when we sat where I am right now," she said. "Everyone I'm talking to, I'm saying, 'Do you have any health care workers you can get over to us?'"

Editor's note: This story first appeared on September 23, 2021.

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