BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Charlie Jones is a bus driver for the Bethlehem central School District. He is also the union representative for much of the district’s support staff. He told NEWS10’s Anya Tucker that some of his members have pushed back on the idea of vaccine mandate.

“Basically, they don’t want to be forced to take something they don’t believe in.”

He says he is now waiting for a list of employees who did not meet the district’s mandated COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The Bethlehem School board unanimously voted that all district employees must have at least the first round of the vaccine by the first day of school on September 9.

Jones says the number of fully vaccinated staff is around 95 percent, but he says the remaining unvaccinated staff members were given notice that as of Wednesday, September 8 at 11:59 p.m., employees who did not have at least one shot were required to submit a medical or religious exemption form or to let the district know if they intended to get the vaccine.

Charlie says, if they are lacking any of those key things, it would put them at risk of being fired.

Anya: “But as far as you know no one has been let go.”
Charlie: “As far as I know. As president, I will be the first one to know as soon as the letters start rolling out.”

Bethlehem is only the district, aside from New York City’s, to make the vaccine mandatory for faculty and staff. As for the district, they sent out a message, which read in part: 

“Employees had until today to provide proof of vaccination or file for an exemption…If there were to be any impact on an individual’s employment as a result of this process, the district would not comment on that.”

As for Charlie, he said the impact is small, but they are moving through it as an entire staff.

“Our main concern is we just want to make sure that the children and the staff are safe and that we move forward and get through this time period.”

New York State teachers already face weekly testing if they cannot provide proof of a vaccine. New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), which represents more than 600,000 teachers and school-related professionals in the state, told NEWS10 they would not directly comment on Bethlehem’s mandate, but they did say they support routine testing for those who are unvaccinated.