“It saddens me. I love my kids and I love the community that I work in and I love my school staff,” said Trinidad Smith, who’s been a teacher in Brooklyn for 20 years.
“I’m disappointed that I cannot be there with my students at this time,” Nwakaego Nwaifejokwu, a Bronx teacher of 11 years, told host Ainsley Earhardt.
“I was really looking forward to coming back to the school year so that we can work with the students because they lost two years already. We thought this was going to be the year where we were going to make up for those losses,” she added.
Teachers asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week for an emergency injunction blocking the implementation of New York City’s vaccine mandate for all public school employees.
About 148,000 public school employees were given until 5 p.m. October 1st to get at least their first vaccine shot. Failure to do so would result in suspension without pay when schools open on October 4th.
“An original deadline earlier this week was delayed by a legal challenge. A federal appeals panel decided Monday that the nation’s largest school district could go ahead with the mandate,” the Associated Press reported.
Smith said that teachers are trying to get a temporary restraining order, which is a “smaller lawsuit” out of there are several lawsuits going on “simultaneously.”
“This is definitely the last attempt for us. And we hope that at least it buys us a little time so that we have an opportunity to be heard in the Supreme Court to at least plead our case because that is what this country is founded on is an opportunity to at least be heard.”
Nwaifejokwu is “hoping” her religious exemption would be accepted. She said it seemed that most exemptions or medical accommodations were not accepted.
“We find that it was unfair because we have the right to it request these exceptions and accommodations,” she added.
Smith did not request a religious exemption.
“Because [the city] went in and made new stipulations as to what would be accepted and he nearly made it impossible for us to have any right under these new stipulations that [de Blasio] put in place.”
New York City teachers and other school staff members were supposed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the bell rang Monday morning, in one of the first school district mandates in the country requiring employees to be inoculated against the coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a final warning to the city’s roughly 148,000 public school staffers on Friday, saying unvaccinated employees would be placed on unpaid leave and not be allowed to work this week. The city planned to bring in substitutes where needed.
Implementing the mandate smoothly may be a challenge for de Blasio, a Democrat who has boasted of the city’s record of keeping school buildings open during most of the last school year when other districts went to all-remote instruction. New York City is not offering a remote option this year.
De Blasio said 90% of Department of Education employees had received at least one vaccine dose, including 93% of teachers and 98% of principals, as of Friday.
The vaccination mandate in the nation’s largest school system does not include a test-out option but does allow for medical and religious exemptions. It was supposed to go into effect last week but was delayed when a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction. An appeals panel reversed that decision three days later.
A similar mandate is set to go into effect in Los Angeles on Oct. 15.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.