NY Education Update: Staff and Student COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Requirements

With COVID numbers rising as many charter schools are returning from winter break, questions have been raised regarding adding a booster requirement to staff vaccination policies, and whether it is permissible to require students to submit to a COVID test or provide proof of vaccination in order to be at school.

As you know, charter schools are required to follow the applicable health and safety rules that are enacted by the NYS Department of Health and local health authorities.  This includes the requirement that all schools have a mandatory staff vaccination policy in place. But there are other pressing issues, such as:

Booster Requirement for Staff?

Some schools are now contemplating adding a requirement that staff receive a COVID-19 booster if it has been at least six months since an employee has completed their initial vaccination series.  It may be prudent at this time to look at the records that your employees provided regarding their vaccination to see when employees would be due for their booster according to CDC recommendations.  With the rise of the Omicron variant, the CDC has strengthened its recommendations for individuals who are 18 years and older. Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine.

Vaccination or Testing Requirement for Students?

There is not currently a statewide mandate that students receive the COVID-19 vaccination to attend school. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has announced plans to bring a statewide vaccine requirement for all school-age children to New York, but she is unable to do this without approval from the state legislature.

While there is not currently a statewide student testing mandate, the New York City Department of Health now requires students to have proof of vaccination if they are participating in high-risk extracurricular activities like sports, band, chorus, orchestra, and dance.  Beyond this limited category of high-risk activities, imposing a vaccination mandate for students may be legally problematic at this point.  Schools may have stronger legal standing to impose a vaccination mandate if they offer a robust remote learning option.

If you would like to discuss enacting a student vaccination or testing requirement policy for vaccinated or unvaccinated students, we encourage you to seek legal counsel to discuss further, as the rules are constantly shifting.

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.

About Barton Gilman
Barton Gilman provides the full scope of legal services to education clients – including charter schools, charter management organizations, private schools, traditional and non-traditional public schools, education advocacy organizations and other education-related organizations – throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. For more information, please click here.