This story was updated at 9PM on Sept. 14.
Just days into the new school year, two Jewish high schools informed families that students had tested positive for Covid-19, The Jewish Week has learned.
Ramaz Upper School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side sent out an email informing families that four high school students had tested positive for the virus.
“We are writing to inform you that as of tonight, two juniors and two seniors in the Upper School have tested positive for COVID-19,” read an email sent out to the Ramaz School community on Sept. 13. Other students in the Upper School are “currently awaiting test results,” the email continues. “These students come from multiple different communities and locations.”
Another yeshiva high school — Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) in Teaneck, NJ — sent out an email today confirming an infection in the junior class. (An email sent hours earlier informed families that two eleventh grade students “are showing COVID symptoms and are awaiting test results.”)
At Ramaz, a consultation with the Department of Health and the school’s medical “task force” led to the decision to close the Upper School building for junior and senior grades for 14 days while students quarantine, according to the email. Out of an “abundance of caution,” the Upper School building is closed today and tomorrow “at the very least” as a number of freshman and sophomore students displaying virus symptoms await test results.
A representative from Ramaz declined additional comment, stating that the email sent out to community members is the school’s comment “as of now.”
At TABC, the “entire cohort” in contact with the infected eleventh grade student is “required to quarantine through September 24,” according to the updated emails sent to parents Monday evening.
“If your son starts showing ANY COVID-19 related symptoms he should isolate immediately,” the email continues. The previous email sent to parents said the school “has determined that the intersections between cohorts was limited enough so that only the 11th grade needs to quarantine at this time.”
The Jewish Week reached out to TABC for comment via phone and email. At the time of publication, the school had not yet responded.
Private and public schools across the country have reported Covid-19 cases after opening, often despite safety measures to minimize the spread and impact of the virus.
Last week, Ramaz’s chief operating officer, Johanna B. Shlomovich, delineated the extensive safety protocols the school had put in place in order to safely reopen.
“We consulted with architects, engineers, and medical professionals to put forward the safest possible protocols,” Shlomovich told The Jewish Week in an email. Protocols included creating one-way traffic flows for students and staff; installing an advanced air filtration system; mask-wearing, hand-washing, Purell use and Covid-testing when deemed necessary by medical professionals; and PPE “as necessary for all of the employees to have several months worth of supplies on-hand,” including face shields, gloves, poly-carbonate shields and gowns.
“I hope everyday that all of the planning and preparation we’ve done will allow us to remain open with a healthy community coming to school and enjoying the excellent Ramaz education,” Shlomovich wrote to The Jewish Week in an email last week.
Other Jewish day schools, including Magen David Yeshivah in Brooklyn and North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, sent out strongly worded emails this week to their member communities warning families to follow social distance protocols as new cases emerge.
“Covid 19 is present in our community and serious cases are once again emerging,” read an email sent out the Magen David Yeshiva community today and signed by the elementary and high school principals along with the school’s board. “We are still in the midst of a pandemic, yet members of our community continue to choose to behave in ways that threaten other people’s safety and put at risk out ability to keep school open.”
The Jewish Week reached out to Magen David elementary school and yeshiva high school via phone and email for comment. At the time of publication, the school had not yet responded.
The Magen David letter goes on to delineate “unacceptable behavior that must stop immediately” and enforce new safety protocols, including wearing masks in accordance with school policy, following dismissal protocol and not attending community events deemed “superspreaders.”
“At this time, it seems that we must use more direct and clear language in having people understand the seriousness of the current situation and the expectations that are in place for all MDY families,” the Magen David email reads.
A special announcement sent out to the North Shore Hebrew Academy (NSHA) community chastised members who attended a “large wedding in our community” last Thursday which “took place indoors and where many of the attendees were not wearing masks.”
“Participation in events of this nature is not consistent with our school policies and raises serious health concerns for our students and faculty,” reads the email. North Shore students who were guests at the wedding are barred from attending in-person classes until they produce a negative COVID test.
The Jewish Week reached out to NSHA for comment via phone and email. At the time of publication, the school had not yet responded.