(JTA) — A school in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel in New York was ordered to close after it was found operating with hundreds of students in its building.
Orange County said in a statement that officials visiting the school last week “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 cease-and-desist order to the school the following day.
In March, the state of New York 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.
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.