Thank the teachers who took action | Press day
For years, I was one of “those” parents. As the co-chair of the parents’ association at my daughter’s primary school, I spent my first mornings knocking on classroom doors, trying to fulfill a teacher’s wish list, while also completing my evenings planning fundraisers and enrichment programs. I was amazed at the work our teachers did and the effort they put into educating and caring for our children.
Whenever I had the chance, I thanked them for everything they did.
Of the hundreds of hours I have spent in this school building in Queens, I remember one particular moment vividly. A mentally ill man was apparently on the roof of a nearby building, and the school was urgently blocked. The teachers locked their classroom doors, hid their children, and tried to comfort and calm them as police helicopters flew overhead. I have no doubt that the teachers were scared and uncertain. But they did what they had to do to keep their loads safe. The bizarre situation ended without incident, but what struck me after it ended was how much we parents depend on our children’s teachers to protect them.
Now here we are again – parents on Long Island, New York and beyond – dependent on teachers and school staff to protect our vulnerable children, to protect them from a vicious intruder. Fortunately, most rose to the challenge.
This week, a COVID-19 vaccination mandate went into effect for any adult in any public school building in New York City. Many of these workers live in Nassau and Suffolk counties – and Long Island schools are closely monitoring the city’s experience.
In late August, when Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced the requirement, city officials said at least 63% of school workers were vaccinated. Earlier this week, that number reached 95%. For teachers, the percentage was even higher – 97%.
And Tuesday, with the mandate in place: 100%.
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of shots have gone into the arms of city teachers, school assistants, bus drivers, security guards, guards, paraprofessionals and administrators. Along with each, another school worker protected another student, including the hundreds of thousands of children still too young to receive the vaccine. Some staff members may have had concerns, doubts or even fears. But that didn’t stop them from doing their jobs.
The incredible rise in the immunization rate has told a tenure success story. And while some employees may have been vaccinated just to keep their jobs, the end result is ultimately the same: Everyone who interacts with our city kids during the school day is now vaccinated. This, in turn, greatly reduces the likelihood of these children becoming another COVID-19 statistic.
Thousands of educators still refuse to be vaccinated. They made the conscious choice to put politics, fear and misinformation ahead of the children they always claimed to put first. They said they were victims. But they are not victims. They are not heroes. And now in the city’s schools, at least, they’re not teachers either. They always have the option of going back to class if they do the right thing and get vaccinated.
Long Island teachers always have a test option. But every parent deserves the same assurance that their children’s teachers are keeping them safe.
My daughter is now a vaccinated teenager. But it is still extremely comforting to know that since this week, each of his teachers is also vaccinated.
And I can still thank them – for everything they do.
Columnist Randi F. Marshall’s opinions are his.