NYC closes tenth Jewish school for violating vaccine order

Ben Sales

NEW YORK (JTA) — New York City is shuttering an Orthodox school in Brooklyn because it has continued to admit unvaccinated students in violation of a city order.

The Central UTA Satmar School for Boys, a hasidic school in the Williamsburg neighborhood, is being closed Tuesday afternoon for violating city orders regarding vaccines and vaccination records, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned. It is the tenth Orthodox school in New York City to be closed this year due to the issue, according to a city official with knowledge of the matter.

Williamsburg, which has a large Orthodox population, has been experiencing a measles outbreak since last year that has infected 588 people in New York City. The city says the outbreak is largely concentrated in the Orthodox community.

In April, the city declared a public health emergency over the outbreak, mandating people in four Williamsburg ZIP codes to vaccinate. The city also announced that it would be closing schools in Williamsburg that allow unvaccinated students to attend. Nine of the 10 schools closed thus far are in Williamsburg. The tenth is in the borough of Queens.

Orthodox authorities have urged their communities to vaccinate, and advocates of the communities cite data showing that Orthodox vaccination rates in Brooklyn are high. But pockets of resistance to vaccination remain in the community. According to data from the State Department of Education, more than 20 Orthodox schools in Brooklyn had immunization rates lower than 90 percent last year. Experts recommend an immunization rate of at least 95 percent.

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Rockland County in New York, home to the heavily Orthodox city of Monsey, has also had a significant number of measles cases. Only about 77 percent of the county is vaccinated, according to state data.

In the case of the Satmar school, the city official said, school officials failed to meet deadlines to provide the city with students’ immunization records. When those records were received, investigations into the school showed that it was still admitting students and faculty who were not vaccinated.

The school is not being given advance notice that it is being closed so that school administrators will not falsify documents ahead of time.

In order to reopen, the official said, the school must compose a corrective action plan that ensures that it will no longer admit unvaccinated students. Faculty will need to know how to act if an unvaccinated student attends. Before the school reopens, the city will have to approve the school’s plan.

City officials will check back daily to make sure that the school remains closed in the interim.