Some residents who live in Toronto’s Ledbury Park neighborhood are concerned that Yeshiva Yesodei Hatorah, a private school that focuses on Jewish education, is not following the rules when it comes to the provincewide school shutdown due to COVID-19.
“I hear from a lot of people and we’re all concerned. We have many E.R. doctors in our neighborhood, we have many other doctors in our neighborhood and they risk their lives every day going to work and they risk their families lives,” said a woman who only wants to be identified by her first name Elize.
“We’re all trying very hard to stay home, follow the rules and none of our kids are in school. This school should be closed too.”
Outside the school Thursday morning, vehicles were lined up to drop their toddlers off at the school, which has a daycare inside. But school-aged children could also be seen walking in without parents by their side, many of them lugging backpacks.
The school’s executive director, Binyamin Septon, issued a statement to Global News, which stated that Yesodei Hatorah school is closed in accordance with the provincewide lockdown.
“Our daycare division is open and our junior high division as well just come for morning and afternoon prayer services. All our activity is (in) accordance to the rules and guidelines of the province,” Septon said in the email.
However, Elize said children could be seen with full backpacks.
“I don’t think they’re coming for simple prayers and there’s way more than ten kids and they’re not three-year-olds. Some of these kids are not walking home on their own. These are not three-year-olds,” she said.
Global News spoke with several parents and a school official off-camera who confirmed that multiple prayer rooms were open with no more than 10 children in each room. It is not clear how many rooms are open and how long the students are allowed to stay at these so-called prayer services.
All schools in Toronto have been ordered closed until at least Feb. 10 during the provincewide lockdown due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m very concerned that these kids are getting together at school and they’re possibly bringing covid home and their parents are possibly having to be hospitalized and you know taking up ICU beds we don’t have. We’re all supposed to stay at home,” said Elize, adding she feels daily prayers could be held virtually.
The Ontario Ministry of Health issued a statement to Global News referring to schedule four of the stage one emergency order which says that no person should attend a gathering for a religious rite or ceremony of more than ten persons.
“This requirement hasn’t changed this week. It would apply to any gathering inside a school for a religious rite or ceremony,” the statement said.
“If multiple rooms are being used, that is something that may be subject to inspection by a by-law enforcement officer, local public health of a police officer, to determine compliance with the stage one emergency order.”
Last September, Yeshiva Yesodei Hatorah had to close its doors for two weeks a day before classes were scheduled to resume after at least two staff members tested positive for the virus.
A representative for Toronto Public Health told Global News in an email that municipal officials are “investigating the complaints received.”
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