NYC parents rally to keep schools open as bill seeks to get all teachers vaccinated

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Parents in New York City are pushing for schools to remain open amid the pandemic now that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it will be safe, even if teachers aren’t vaccinated.

“We do not have a system that keeps our schools open,” public school parent Daniela Giampel said Wednesday.

She says her 6-year-old daughter returned to school shortly before the rally for the first time since January 13, because of a rule in place that mandates schools must close for in-person learning if there are two or more cases within the building.

Parents are frustrated with the rule and say it is not based on any scientific guidance and closing the schools is directly affecting children’s academic progress.

“He loved school, came home bubbling about school. We never had to watch what his grades were doing. We were so freaking lucky. He is deteriorating mentally, emotionally, academically before our eyes,” said Megan Cousins of her 12-year-old son who is in the seventh grade at a school in Harlem.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he'll announce a plan for reopening middle schools this month.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the CDC, announced Wednesday that schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated.

“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” she said, citing CDC data showing that social distancing and mask compliance significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings.

Teachers are prioritized as “essential workers” under the CDC's vaccination plans, though many have yet to receive doses.

To make matters even more complicated, teachers who live in New York, but work in New Jersey, are saying that they are being turned away for their shots.

According to teachers in Rockland County, they say vaccination centers are telling them they are not eligible to receive the vaccine in New York – even though teachers are prioritized in the state currently – because they work in New Jersey, which is not prioritizing teachers.

State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick is introducing a bill to change that.

“When you have two teachers living side by side, one could get vaccinated, one could not. They both live in the same community, they can both spread the virus,” he said. “I've introduced legislation to fix the situation and require that any resident of New York is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine based on their employment or occupation… whether or not they work in New York.”

Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and Twitter. Download the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Marla Diamond