Murphy: All school personnel need to be vaccinated — or submit to weekly tests (but will not face termination)

Gov. Phil Murphy.

All personnel serving students in preschool through 12th grade need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or submit to, at minimum, one or two weekly COVID-19 tests, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Murphy said the same vaccination policy is now in place for all state employees, as well — including those at all state agencies, authorities and public colleges and universities — whether they be full- or part-time, or contract employees.

Unlike other industries, school personnel will not face termination if they do not get vaccinated.

Murphy said the order involving those who work in schools applies to all public, private and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools. And, he said, it applies to all individuals employed by a school, regardless of whether they work full-time or part-time.

It includes:

  • Administrators, educators and educational support professionals;
  • Individuals providing food, custodial or administrative support services;
  • Substitute teachers, whether employed directly by a school or otherwise contracted;
  • All other school employees.

Murphy said he does not anticipate problems with the vaccination order — noting that educators already have high rates of vaccination and that labor leaders are on board.

“We expect that district leaders will work collaboratively and directly with local union leadership on smoothing out operational or other logistical aspects — especially if there is a need for larger-scale testing of workers over the next couple of months,” he said.

Murphy said the need for vaccination is clear, citing examples in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.

“I made this case two weeks ago,” Murphy said. “We’re not going to sacrifice the health of our kids or staff, and masking and vaccinations of both students and staff, along with a layered approach to safety, is our top priority for starting the year.

“Remember, no students under age 12 are yet eligible to be vaccinated, and only roughly half of those older than 12 have been vaccinated. And we will continue to educate students and parents on the importance of vaccination, especially for younger students when the FDA grants its approval for them to receive a COVID vaccine.”

Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican nominee for governor, called Murphy’s order hypocritical, saying teachers will have a choice between vaccination and regular testing, while students have no choice but to mask.

“Gov. Murphy’s announcement today is both hypocritical, and evidence that powerful Trenton special interests get to play by one set of rules, while the rest of us are forced to play by another set,” he said. “Specifically, why is Gov. Murphy willing to find common ground on a flexible vaccinate-or-test policy with the teachers union, but not willing to do the same with parents who oppose his mask mandate for K-12 students?

“The answer, of course, is simple: Average parents don’t run a powerful union that funneled $10 million in dark money to benefit the governor’s campaign. The NJEA did, so they get to cut a deal. Parents did not, so they are told what to do without any recourse.”