NY ultra-Orthodox school found with ‘hundreds of students inside’ amid lockdown

Orange County orders closure of site in village of Kiryas Joel over lack of personal protective equipment, social distancing in violation of governor’s orders

Sign at the entrance to Satmar Hasidic  sect village of Kiryas Joel. (Uriel Heilman via JTA)
Sign at the entrance to Satmar Hasidic sect village of Kiryas Joel. (Uriel Heilman via JTA)

JTA — A school in the ultra-Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel in New York state was ordered to close on Thursday after it was found operating with hundreds of students inside in an apparent violation of virus lockdown restrictions.

Orange County said in a statement that officials visiting the school “found what appeared to be hundreds of students inside, not wearing personal protective equipment, not social distancing, and plainly in violation of the Governor’s Executive Orders,” the Times Herald-Record reported. The county health department issued a case-and-desist order to the school the following day.

Kiryas Joel residents are primarily members of the Satmar hasidic sect. The village is around 60 miles north of New York City.

In March, New York state issued an order mandating the closure of all schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an order that remains in effect.

If the school continues to operate, officials said that it could face criminal prosecution, including criminal negligence for individuals, the order said, according to the Daily Voice.

Illustrative: The village of Kiryas Joel, New York, July 1, 2014. (AP/Mike Groll, File)

Ron Coleman, an attorney for the United Talmudical Academy system, told the Times Herald-Record that “the school was not operating as a school,” but administrators had allowed the boys to study independently in the building, which school officials believed was permitted under the state executive order.

Chris Ericson, a deputy county health commissioner who visited the school, told the newspaper that the classrooms were full, teachers were in the rooms, and few wore masks.

The United Talmudical Academy is a Hasidic school system for about 14,500 children in and around Kiryas Joel.

read more: