With a law passing Thursday, putting to rest years-long strife in the East Ramapo school district, a nearby Rockland County school board is beginning to limit funding for essential services for its growing Orthodox Jewish population.
The Ramapo Central school board sent out a letter last month to residents in their jurisdiction, which includes parts of Monsey, as well as the communities of Airmont, Hillburn, Montebello, Sloatsburg and Suffern.
The letter stated that as of the upcoming school year, there would no longer be busing for private school students on days when public schools are closed, such as legal holidays and vacation days. It also demanded that schools have only one arrival and dismissal time. This would greatly affect schools with earlier arrivals or later dismissals.
The board also rescinded all busing for private school students to go to a public school site for special education or remedial services.
The school board’s decisions were greeted with dismay by yeshivos in both the Ramapo Central district and the nearby East Ramapo district — in which most of the affected students study.
This “will adversely affect many local families,” one yeshivah wrote in a memo to parents apprising them of the changes. “It brings to question the underlying motivation for these changes and what else they might try to enact if this goes unchallenged.”
The Jewish presence in Ramapo Central is relatively recent. According to Rabbi Hershel Horowitz, executive director of the Yeshiva Association of Rockland County, there were 472 private school students in the district in 2012. That is expected to grow to about 800 in the next school year which begins this September.
These numbers are out of a total of 4,868 children enrolled in Ramapo Central’s public elementary, middle and high schools.
Part of the new rules has already gone into effect. Parents of the Vizhnitz network of yeshivos living in Ramapo Central have been notified that all talmidim going to any one of the yeshivos — boys or girls, elementary, Mesivta or high school — will be dropped off at only one building.
This has caused a tremendous hassle for the talmidim, who must then walk or get a ride to their respective building. Yeshivah officials fret that this is what all students will be forced to undergo come September.
“Vizhnitz is the only school that they started already this year,” a YARC official told Hamodia. “What’s happening now [in Vizhnitz] will be happening soon every single day.”
Ramapo Central has some yeshivos within its borders, such as a Rachmastrivka cheder and Ateres Bais Yaakov. But the majority of students are bused into schools in East Ramapo.
The cuts are not due to financial difficulties, since the same budget which slashed transportation options for private schools also added money for public school busing.
With the school year commencing in less than three months, parents and local yeshivos are meeting this week to discuss how to proceed.