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Schools open for 1 million NYC kids amid new vaccine rules


The start of the school year coincides with several milestones in the city’s recovery from the pandemic that hinges on the vaccine mandate.

The city’s nearly 300,000 employees will need to return to their workplaces, in person, on Monday, as remote work ends in the city. Most will either need to be vaccinated, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain in their jobs.

The city was also prepared to begin implementing rules requiring workers and patrons to be vaccinated at restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment venues indoors. The vaccination requirement has been in place for weeks, but was not implemented earlier.

There will also be a vaccine mandate for teachers – without the option of testing -, although they have been given until September 27 to get their first shot.

Unlike some school districts across the country that are still giving online instruction to families who prefer it, New York City officials say there will be no remote option despite the persistence of the highly permeable Delta version of COVID-19.

New York City kept schools open for much of the last school year, with some students doing a mix of distance and individual instruction, but most families choosing all distance learning. That option will not be available this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio has insisted.

“Our kids need to be in school and it’s unbelievable that some kids haven’t looked inside the classroom for a year and a half,” the mayor said on Thursday. “That has massive consequences, including health care consequences. The healthiest, best place for kids to live is school.”

Masks will be required for all students and staff members, as is the case in New York state schools.

No vaccine is mandatory for students 12 years of age and older who are eligible to be vaccinated, but to participate in contact sports such as football and basketball, as well as some extra-curricular activities such as band practice and theatre. Vaccination will be required. About two-thirds of the city’s 12 to 17-year-olds are vaccinated at this time.

De Blasio, a Democrat in his final months in office, has insisted that masks, cleaning protocols and random COVID-19 testing make school buildings safer. But they have faced backlash from parents who want their children home, and unions representing teachers and other school staff members.

A caller to WNYC during Mayer’s weekly radio appearance on Friday said she was “right next to herself in fear of sending my 6-year-old to school.”

“We believe this is an exceptionally safe environment,” replied de Blasio. “We’ve proven it and most importantly our kids have to come back.”

Asked if some students could be missing from the system because their virus-stricken parents wouldn’t send them to school, de Blasio said a “vast, vast majority” of parents would bring their children to school.

The city has been in arbitration with the United Federation of Teachers, which represents about 80,000 teachers in the city’s public schools, on issues including housing for teachers, who say they have health issues that prevent them from being vaccinated. .

The arbitrator ruled late Friday that the city must offer non-classroom assignments to teachers who have not been vaccinated because of medical and religious exemptions.

“As a group, teachers have been overwhelmingly supportive of vaccines, but we have members because of medical conditions or other reasons for declining vaccinations,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a news release.

Meanwhile, other unions for the city’s workers objected to the mayor’s decision to order workers back to workplaces, saying they should be allowed to continue if they are doing their jobs well remotely. .

The Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group for unions representing municipal workers, has also threatened legal action if the mayor moves to eliminate the option of weekly virus tests for workers who choose not to get vaccinated. Choose.

And a group of restaurant and bar owners have sued over indoor dining and requiring vaccinations for employees, saying the city had overstepped their legal authority.

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