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March 12, 2020 9:33 am

A Dozen Orthodox Day Schools Shutter Across Northern New Jersey Over Coronavirus

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A man in a face mask rides the subway in Manhattan, after further cases of coronavirus were confirmed in New York, March 5, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Kelly. – Twelve Orthodox Jewish day schools in Bergen County, NJ, are closed until at least Friday, March 20, in an effort to stem the number of cases of the coronavirus there.

At least 15 people in Bergen County have tested “presumptive” positive for the coronavirus, or COVID-19. (A presumptive positive means the results have not be verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Nationwide, more than 1,270 people have the virus—a number that experts said is probably not indicative of the true number of people ill because of a limited number of test kits available.

In a joint letter to parents, signed by the leaders of all the schools, the administrators wrote, “In consultation with medical specialists and representatives from the Bergen County school district, local Jewish day-school leaders have been working together to create a community-wide approach to dealing with this rapidly changing and evolving situation, one that will hopefully slow the spread of the coronavirus in our community. At this time, the schools’ closures will begin on Thursday, March 12th and will remain in effect through Friday, March 20th. Our school leaders will remain in regular contact with each other, the Department of Health and other medical authorities, to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus on our community and how best to continue addressing them proactively.”

Because of the nature of the Bergen County Jewish community, families are often affiliated with more than one school, with significant interaction among the teachers and student populations. Several of the schools reported having a parent, staff member or student with symptoms of the virus.

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To ensure that education continues unabated, the letter also said that the schools “will be conducting remote learning classes, rather than in-school instruction. Each school will be transitioning to online platforms to conduct classes in a way that best fits the culture of its respective school.”

The letter urged parents to keep their kids at home and “ … not gather together with friends at their homes or in public places, such as malls, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. Experts have shared that social distancing will help to contain the virus, and it is critical to us as a community that we each do our part to slow its spread.”

The New Jersey schools join a number of other Orthodox school nationwide that have closed because of coronavirus concerns. They include Yeshiva Har Torah in Queens, NY; Harkham Hillel Academy in Beverly Hills, Calif.; Salantar Akiba Riverdale Academy in Riverdale, NY; and several schools in Westchester County, NY.

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