Nearly 3,700 substitute teachers needed in NYC ahead of vaccine deadline

The city Department of Education is looking to plug nearly 3,700 openings for substitute teachers as the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public school staffers goes into effect Monday, The Post has learned.

The 3,659 vacancies amount to an average of about two subs per each of the system’s roughly 1,800 schools — though the needs at some schools, including in Brooklyn and Queens, are far greater, according to an email sent Saturday and obtained by The Post.

The starting dates for the fill-in gigs range from Monday to May 2022, though the bulk of the roles begin in October, according to the email sent to the pool of public school substitute teachers.

As an “additional financial incentive,” the DOE is offering subs an extra $50 per day for working at least 10 days between Sept. 20 and Nov. 24, the email says.

The DOE is also looking to cover an additional 3,020 spots for paraprofessional substitute teachers — aides that work with special education and disabled students.

The Department of Education is looking to plug nearly 3,700 openings for substitute teachers as the COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect on October 4, 2021.
The Department of Education is looking to plug nearly 3,700 openings for substitute teachers as the COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect on October 4, 2021.
Kevin C. Downs for The New York

The call for subs was blasted out two days before all DOE employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter school buildings.

The roughly 15,000 DOE employees who refused to get the jab by last week’s deadline — including about 5,500 teachers — have the choice of taking a year of unpaid leave with health insurance or leaving the DOE with severance.

In order to fill the gaps, the DOE has vowed that it has at the ready 9,000 vaccinated substitutes, 5,000 substitute paraprofessionals and “qualified” central staff.

According to a new report, 15,000 Department of Education employees have refused to get the jab and been forced to take a year-long leave.
According to a new report, 15,000 Department of Education employees have refused to get the jab and been forced to take a year-long leave.
James Keivom

DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas said Sunday that the nearly 3,700 substitute teacher openings “tracks with the average number of subs that fill in on a daily basis” and that there is “nothing out of the ordinary” with it.

But David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, cautioned that the particularly high need for subs at certain schools is “very worrying.”

“The need isn’t spread out evenly,” he said.

Teachers against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate made a last-ditch effort to Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who rejected the plea.
Teachers against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate made a last-ditch effort to Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who rejected the plea.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Data obtained by The Post shows that, for instance, Shell Bank junior high school in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay has 10 sub vacancies to fill. In Queens, PS 87 and 128 in have nine and eight openings, respectively — far higher than the two-sub-per-school average.

“I’m expecting to see a lot of stress among principals, a deficiency in instructors, and a number of children going without mandated services,” said Bloomfield.  

But Eric Nadelstern, former New York City deputy chancellor for school support and instruction under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said the DOE’s need for subs “doesn’t seem like a lot.”

The Department of Education said that a majority of the roles will go October 4, 2021 through May of 2022.
The Department of Education said that a majority of the roles will go October 4, 2021 through May of 2022.
Michael Appleton

“It doesn’t strike me as a large number of people,” he said Sunday. “I don’t think there are going to be a lot of uncovered classrooms tomorrow. I don’t think that’s going to be a major issue.”

According to the DOE’s data as of Friday, at least 90 percent of DOE employees, 93 percent of teachers and 98 percent of principals are vaccinated.

The vaccine requirement for all public school staff, announced Aug. 23, follows weeks of legal proceedings over the mandate, which was originally slated to go into effect on Sept. 27.

Frank Esposito submits to a COVID-19 nasal swab test at West Brooklyn Community High School.
Frank Esposito submits to a COVID-19 nasal swab test at West Brooklyn Community High School.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a last-ditch effort by four city teachers to block the shot mandate.

Ahead of Monday, the DOE told principals to prepare a list of staffers marked as “no entry permitted.”

“If they don’t have a vaccination card, they can’t come in the building,” a Brooklyn principal said previously.

Charles Marine, a teacher from St. Catherine Academy, waiting to get a vaccine at the entrance to Abraham Lincoln High School.
Charles Marine, a teacher from St. Catherine Academy, waiting to get a vaccine at the entrance to Abraham Lincoln High School.
Kevin C. Downs

Officials have also warned that the disproportionately high amount of unvaccinated school safety agents — about 20 percent of the city’s 4,848 force — could lead to security challenges in and around schools.

Mark Cannizzaro, head of the city principals’ union, recently said his members are being told to expect only one agent per school.

“The overwhelming majority of schools, we’ve been told, would only have one safety agent come next week,” he said during a press conference late last month. “Can you imagine an emergency evacuation drill with one safety agent?”

According to Greg Floyd, the head of the school safety agents union, some larger city high schools are normally staffed with up to 20 school safety agents.

“This creates a crisis and a danger to the students, faculty and the school safety agents,” he said.

Additional reporting by Susan Edelman

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