July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Yeshivot Confront Omicron

In the latest pandemic-era twist, the omicron variant surpassed the delta variant to become the dominant COVID variant in the U.S. as of Monday, December 20. In the New York Metropolitan area, omicron cases represented about 92% of all new covid cases, according to the CDC.

Efforts to stay ahead of the rising numbers were seen in all industries and communities. Some Broadway shows and public gatherings were canceled. Office workers were again told to work from home. In New York, Governor Hochul instituted an indoor mask mandate, while New Jersey and Connecticut are still examining all options. Some local meetings are moving back online, some schools are going remote or hybrid, some colleges and universities are mandating boosters. Masks seem to be back in full force in stores and businesses.

SAR in Riverdale reported that it had 265 students who opted for Zoom education on Tuesday, December 21, prompting the school to renew the Zoom option for all students for Wednesday before beginning winter break, and fully canceling classes a day early, with no classes scheduled Thursday or Friday.

The Frisch School also re-introduced a Zoom option, with a caveat: “Students who wish to Zoom without a specific medical reason may do so; however, they must Zoom for at least four continuous days. Without this requirement, teenagers will be teenagers and we risk creating an atmosphere where students are here one day and home the next, leading to disrupted learning,” wrote Rabbi Eli Ciner in an email to parents.

The Shefa School made the decision to shift online from Monday, December 20 through Wednesday, December 22, in advance of the school’s winter break, which began on Thursday. An email to parents expressed the hope “that this will be our only closure for this year. This decision was made because we do not yet know much about omicron and we are heading into a vacation.”

On Wednesday, December 22, Yeshiva University moved to an online format for its review and finals weeks.

The Ramaz School pivoted to online learning on Monday, December 20, with students learning remotely for two days before the start of winter break on Wednesday.

In Essex County, West Orange High School returned to a hybrid model on Monday, December 20, with the students divided into cohorts, each of which attended in-person school twice during the week and learned remotely the other two days. The school’s winter break began on Friday, December 24.

Governor Murphy pledged that New Jersey will make every effort to keep students in school, announcing on Tuesday that the state will be rolling out a pilot program in January to enable students exposed to COVID to remain in the classroom. The “test to stay” program will allow asymptomatic students who are “close contacts” to someone who tested positive to take rapid tests upon arrival at school for several days. If they test negative, they will be allowed to stay in school rather than quarantine.

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