PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Education officials in the Diocese of Brooklyn came out in opposition to a school vaccine mandate for private and religious schools announced late Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In a statement following the announcement, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of schools for the diocese, pointed out that teachers and staff members in Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools have an 88% vaccination rate and that they have “shown true leadership” in the city’s fight against COVID-19.
“However, we have and continue to remain opposed to any such mandate,” Chadzutko said.
The letter came in response to a surprise announcement from the mayor that he was imposing a mandate for all teachers and staff members in the city’s private and religious schools to be vaccinated.
The newly-announced mandate affects an estimated 56,000 employees in 938 Catholic schools, yeshivas, and other private schools.
The employees have a deadline of Dec. 20 to show proof that they have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A mandate is already in place in the city’s public schools.
Msgr. David Cassato, vicar of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said, “We opened our schools as scheduled for the 2020-2021 school year, weeks before the public schools brought their students back. Since then, we have done a tremendous job keeping the coronavirus out of our schools and I believe what we are doing, and how we are doing it, is working well.”
The mayor’s announcement came as the city braces for the Omicron variant of the virus, which was first detected in South Africa and has now been detected in the U.S.
“We are doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff and a mandate for non-public school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe,” de Blasio said in a statement.
But the Diocese of Brooklyn has joined a coalition of religious and independent schools across the city that is asking the mayor to reconsider the latest mandate.
“This is an area where government should be using its bully pulpit to persuade, not its regulatory arm to coerce,” Rabbi David Zwiebel, chairman of the Committee of NYC and Independent School Officials, wrote in a letter to de Blasio and City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.