Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway closed Tuesday and will remain closed while the New York City Department of Health investigates reports of 13 active COVID-19 infections at the school, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Bender said in an email to parents.
Preparations were being made on Tuesday to transition to online learning for all 2,000 students, but all grades may not be ready in time for Wednesday’s classes,” Rabbi Bender said.
“Beginning tomorrow morning, your sons’ distinguished rabbeim and teachers will be conducting their classes via our KZoom system and teleconferencing (depending on the grade). Our efforts at setting up the KZoom system are in full swing but, due to the short notice, might not be fully implemented across all grades in time for tomorrow morning. We appreciate your patience as we go through this nisayon together.”
The cases come on the heels of school closures and quarantines of entire classes in several Jewish day schools in the New York area and rising anxiety over an uptick in COVID cases in Orthodox communities.
Two juniors and two seniors at Ramaz Upper School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side tested positive for the virus. The school closed for juniors and seniors and plans to remain closed for two weeks.
While most Jewish day schools hoped to resume in-person learning after finishing the previous school year entirely online, the return to in-person classes has proven difficult in the face of new COVID cases.
A spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Queens yeshiva would resume virtual classes amid the Health Department conducts an investigation.
“Following discussions with senior City Department of Health officials and the yeshiva leadership, we have proposed moving the school to remote learning for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to complete a health investigation and protect students and staff from COVID transmission, given evidence of cases across multiple age levels,” Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for the mayor, told Politico in an email. “The school has significant experience with virtual learning from earlier in the year, and we believe this is the safest approach to track down the cause of over a dozen lab-confirmed COVID cases across the school.”