May 22, 2024
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Bergen County Heads of School Address Out-of-School Activities and Guidelines

Editor’s note: The Bergen County day school heads together released the following letter to their school populations, with slight variations.

After months of intense planning and investments, Bergen County schools opened our doors two weeks ago to thousands of eager learners. Watching our students learn in school reaffirms our decision to provide them with in school instruction. Now, our task is to ensure we can remain open and safe and healthy. That goal requires a clear and consistent community effort. Unfortunately, we are seeing an uptick in COVID cases in our broader community, which is leading to many quarantine situations and even a few positive cases in some schools. If the trend continues in this direction, the inevitable result will be school closures. With this in mind, we are writing this letter to communicate with you a number of important communal norms that must be adhered to in order to minimize the spread of COVID, thus preserving the health of our community and the viability of our schools. These protocols and guidelines were developed in tandem with the other local yeshiva day schools.

Guidelines for Bar/Bat Mitzvot and All Smachot

Smachot should be held only outside. Even when outside, participants must be socially distanced six feet from each other or masked at all times. Dancing should not be part of a simcha. Every invitation for a simcha should state explicitly what safety measures will be in place and what safety measures are expected of all guests. For example, masks will be provided and all guests are expected to wear them. Smachot on Shabbat should include neighborhood guests or only immediate family from out of town. All other guidelines discussed in our communication regarding smachot last week, not specifically referenced here, remain in effect at this time.

Guidelines for Other Gatherings

The risk of viral transmission is increased in crowds. This is especially true if the gathering takes place indoors or without masks or social distancing. No one should host or attend any type of indoor event, even small gatherings indoors, unless they are an official, organized event such as a Shul approved socially distant minyan. A tent with walls is considered indoors for these purposes.

Sleepover Guests

Students should not host other students for sleepovers. Hosting overnight guests is discouraged and should be limited to situations of great importance as determined in consultation with your doctor or rabbi. If a family chooses to have overnight guests, mask wearing by both the hosts and guests and social distancing between the hosts and guests should be maintained at all times in order to mitigate the risk of viral transmission.

Indoor Meals

As much as sharing meals is an important part of the chag, any shared meals should be held outdoors only, with social distancing. We expect that families will not go into other people’s homes for meals. If one must enter someone’s home, a mask is required. A four-walled Sukkah is considered “indoors” from a COVID disease transmission perspective.

Playdates, Birthday Parties and Organized Sports Outside of School

Please note that “pods” were created to minimize cross contamination and to assist in tracking a spread. However, there still is a chance of transmitting COVID within the pod if social distancing is not maintained. Therefore, even children in the same pod should still practice social distancing or wear masks when interacting. Playdates should be held exclusively outdoors.

All sports or extracurricular programming must follow community guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing. If a program does not adhere to the protocols one should not participate in it. Birthday parties should be limited to those children who are in a child’s class. All parties must be outside and adhere to social distancing protocols.

Communication Between School and Home Regarding Symptomatic Family Members

Communicating with us is of the utmost importance. Please continue to be in contact with us when there is a potential exposure and/or positive case. Please keep your children home if they are experiencing any of the symptoms listed in the school guidelines. Please keep your children home if they have been exposed to someone pending COVID test results. Even with a negative result on a rapid COVID test, if there is a pending PCR test, the whole family must stay home.

The Importance of Adhering To Communal Norms

We recognize that within our own community there are divergent opinions about the various measures taken thus far. Some may feel these measures are too restrictive while others will feel that they do not go far enough. Whatever your personal opinion, we appeal to you and to the broader community to adhere stridently to these guidelines at a minimum.  As Torah institutions, הלכה requires stringency regarding all matters related to safeguarding life.  In our case, observance of these stringencies will also render it far more likely that schools will stay open.

Some have asked, “What will happen to those who don’t adhere to the guidelines?”  The question itself strikes us as unusual as we are not by nature a punitive society. Yet, in this scenario where the intentional disregard by one can imperil the needs of the ציבור, willful disobedience will be subject to mandatory quarantine or even removal from school. Ultimately we as a community have a choice. If some families continue to choose to not abide by the guidelines by having indoor playdates and meals, schools are likely to close, impacting the lives of thousands of students and their families. We therefore request that if your family is not able to consistently abide by these guidelines, please do not send your children to school for in-person learning.  We can remain open only with a shared partnership and highly prioritized goal of keeping our doors open.

We appreciate the sacrifice that our families continue to make on behalf of our community.

Students and families that put others at risk by attending a “superspreader” event or frequent willful neglect of our guidelines may be subject to mandatory quarantine or staying home from school for up to 2 weeks.

Guidelines will be updated throughout the year based on most recent data. We hope and pray that circumstances change and we can collectively be less restrictive. Until that time, we ask for your continued partnership with us as we work to keep our community safe both in and out of school. Wishing all a שנה טובה ומתוקה, a happy, healthy, sweet new year.

Rabbi Daniel Alter,

The Moriah School

Rabbi Chaim Hagler,

Yeshivat Noam

Rabbi Jonathan Knapp,

Yavneh Academy

Rabbi Daniel Price,

Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey

Rav Tomer Ronen,

Yeshivat He’Atid

Mrs. Orite Rubenstein,

Lubavitch on the Palisades Preschool/Tenafly Chabad Academy

Rabbi Saul Zucker,

Ben Porat Yosef

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