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Covid-19 Local News

School district and Sayegh administration settle dispute that nearly closed Paterson vaccination site

Mayor Andre Sayegh and the Board of Education have settled a dispute that nearly shuttered the city’s Covid-19 vaccination site.

Both sides entered into a so-called “Emergency Preparedness Agreement” on Wednesday. Under the agreement, the city will continue to use International High School to run its vaccination program, but indemnify and “hold harmless” the district against liability claims. The agreement also requires the city to pay $222,429 within 60 days for using district custodians, nurses, and resources to operate the vaccination site from January 1 through March 2, 2021.

“The issues have been resolved,” said school board president Kenneth Simmons during the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night.

The matter came to a boil on Wednesday morning, when the district locked the city out of the vaccination site. School officials quickly reversed the decision before the vaccination site was to open for the day after intervention from the state, according to multiple sources.

Some officials said the district took the drastic action because the City Council did not approve the agreement at its meeting on Tuesday night. Late Wednesday afternoon, the City Council held an emergency meeting to approve the agreement.

“We want to be able to continue our partnership,” said council vice president Lilisa Mimms, who presided over the meeting in absence of president Flavio Rivera.

The school district has pulled its nurses and security staff, who were working at the vaccination site, earlier in the month. The agreement states the district will provide a custodian for $23 per hour, a chief custodian for $44 per hour, and a supervisor for $465 per day.

The city “shall be responsible for future payment that may be incurred, as well as 100% one hundred percent reimbursement for any costs expended by the district,” reads the agreement.

Mayor Andre Sayegh has been slammed by his critics for his handling of the dispute. Councilman Michael Jackson has previously said Sayegh was yet again getting “bullied” by another government entity and failing to “fight” for residents.

Sayegh could have taken a tougher stance in the dispute. A 2016 agreement between the city and the district states, “In the event the Public Emergency occurs at a time when the facilities of the DISTRICT are not ordinarily open to the public, the DOH [Department of Health] shall be authorized to gain access in any manner reasonable under the circumstances of the Public Emergency.”

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