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Concern Grows Over Whether NYC Will Have Enough Substitute Teachers, Safety Agents To Cover Those Who Don't Get Vaccinated

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Monday marks the first day all New York City public school staff must be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The latest numbers show around 10% did not comply, which means several thousand jobs had to be filled over the weekend, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Sunday.

"People are actually scrambling at this hour," City Council Education Chair Mark Treyger said. "I know for a fact that principals have actually asked their staff if they know friends and their family."

They are looking for substitutes.

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Treyger said he believes the city is not prepared to fill the roughly 15,000 vacancies the school system may see Monday, especially paraprofessionals for special education students.

It's all due to Mayor Bill de Blasio's vaccine mandate.

On Friday, Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter told CNN, "We do not expect to have a shortage on Monday. We expect to be ready."

Employees could still get vaccinated over the weekend, so the Department of Education is set to release new numbers Monday.

Friday's stats show that at least 90% of DOE employees got the shot, breaking it down to 93% of teachers, and 98% of principals. The union for school safety agents said 79% got the shot, but with almost a quarter out, the principals' union has been warning each school may only have one school safety agent.


More than 4,000 students attend Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, but instead of three school safety agents, teacher Arthur Goldstein said he's worried there may only be one on Monday.

"If there's a fight or something, I'm not supposed to get in between a fight. That's the job of a school security agents," Goldstein said. "I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I don't expect Bill de Blasio to come riding on a horse down Utopia Parkway to correct this situation. There can be multiple emergencies. You know, teenagers can be mercurial."

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Unvaccinated staff members like Christina Coscia, a site coordinator for pre-K schools in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, are still holding out hope.

"I'm not ready to put something like that in my body, and I think that should be my choice," Coscia said.

She's part of a group of staffers suing the city over the mandate, even though they lost an emergency ruling by the Supreme Court. A hearing in federal court is scheduled for next week.

"Our school social workers are being pulled out of our pre-K centers," Coscia said. "I hold meetings and email parents using Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, English. I have parents that aren't literate and I invite them to the building so that I can translate things for them. I don't know who's going to do that."

The city says it has 9,000 vaccinated subs and 5,000 vaccinated substitute paraprofessionals that can be redeployed.

Councilman Treyger said he's concerned how much children will learn if a staffer does not have the proper certification.

"Will children actually be educated? Will children get support services that they're legally required to get, um, beyond just adults babysitting them and supervising them," Treyger said.

He's holding an emergency hearing Wednesday.


On Sunday night, the teachers' union announced a temporary weeklong agreement that allows special education teachers, social workers and psychologists to cover classes in an emergency, adding combining classes must be a last resort.

A DOE map filled with blue and orange dots signifies classrooms closed. Since the first day of school, there have been more than 3,000 COVID cases city wide.

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