NEW CITY, N.Y. – A religious group has agreed to let county fire inspectors into yeshivas, Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced this week.
The county had targeted dozens of the private religious schools in an effort, it said, to improve safety for students, staff and first responders.
Last month, it got the go-ahead from the state Department of Education to perform inspections at 49 schools, the majority of which are in Ramapo and Spring Valley.
However, Day said, county inspectors were not allowed in any of the 13 schools they visited Monday, June 6.
Shortly after Rockland threatened to go to court to force the inspections, a newly formed organization calling itself the School Religious Freedom Coalition called the county to say it “changed its mind,” Day said.
The inspections are to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 8, the county said.
"The real winners here are the children who will now be going to schools that are safe," Day said.
Nyack attorney Dennis Lynch, who is representing the coalition, said the issue Monday was whether the county “complies with state education law.”
In a letter to County Attorney Thomas Humbach, Lynch said Rockland County officials needed to give yeshiva administrators "reasonable" notice before making inspections.
It also has to, by law, have properly credentialed inspectors and allow a school administrator on the site during the inspection, he said.
Lynch said representatives of the first three or four schools county inspectors visited Monday handed them his letter explaining the state law on proper notice.
When inspectors showed up at the other schools, and were told they couldn’t come in, they walked away before the administrator could show them the letter, Lynch said.
Lynch said he asked the county for a list of the schools in question, so he could reach out to them and arrange times for the inspections.
The inspections will be carried out by a core team of four former or current Rockland fire chiefs who all are state-certified code enforcement officials.
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