When the Covid-19 pandemic forced closure of all schools, the Jewish school community in Los Angeles didn’t have to look far for support – BJE has had professional networks in place for years, including day school, early childhood and part-time religious schools.
Almost immediately, BJE began to convene the various professional networks by zoom, and participation is at an all-time high.
According to Rabbi Jim Rogozen, Director of BJE’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood and Day School Education, the increase in the number of meetings reflects the constant desire of all of our teachers and administrators to do their best in an uncertain environment. Network members have given feedback, shared ideas, and offered advice and comfort to their colleagues. These ideas, as well as the emotional support, have helped schools create programs and protocols to support teachers, students and families during this unique period in history.
For early childhood programs, there is particular focus on the question of reentry, because their programs are not as easily transferred to an online format. With leadership from BJE’s Early Childhood Education Specialist, Carly Rosenstein, educators are doing extraordinary research and planning for re-opening, and collaborating and sharing with colleagues even more than usual.
- BJE assisted the ECCs to jointly order over 800 teacher masks with clear inserts so that children can see their teachers’ faces and continue to learn facial cues.
- Katie Kang, ECC Director at Temple Menorah, shared a presentation with the group about the steps she took to reopen her school (the first of the schools in BJE’s network to reopen).
- Tamar Andrews, ECC Director at Temple Isaiah, helped develop a document that can be shared with schools, parents, and the community about the considerations taken to reopen schools safely during this time. This document has now been shared with BJE’s entire ECC directors’ network to use and adapt to their own schools.
- Nearly 300 educators either participated in, or viewed later, a BJE-hosted presentation by psychologist Dr. Mason Sommers, about how educators can manage their own anxieties about reentry.
Future sessions will include:
- A session with Dr. Maxine Mintzer, child psychologist, who will speak to some of the concerns and considerations around the wellbeing of the children as they re-enter school.
- Teachers at Temple Menorah, will highlight the actual steps they took to re-setup their classrooms, prepare the kids over Zoom in advance, and the lessons they did their first week back to school.
Representing BJE-affiliated schools as part of the California Association of Private School Organizations (CAPSO), BJE – as other representatives of private school networks in the state – recently gathered information requested from day schools and early childhood centers to help facilitate distribution of certain personal protective equipment by the State of California to these schools in advance of the new school year.
In religious schools, David Lewis, Director of BJE’s Center for Excellence in Part-Time Jewish Education, sees the same discussions, as administrators seek support in planning for the months ahead.
- BJE has 30 administrators signed up to participate in ongoing zoom session addressing Preparing for 5781 – representing a very substantial majority of the L.A. community’s Religious Schools.
- Every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the pandemic period, BJE has held open meetings for drop-ins, with 20 or more educators showing up for each one, seeking support and collaboration.
- Every Thursday at least through summer the BJE professional team will be working with schools on re-entry strategies, helping them identify their ideal structure through next year, with many looking at a hybrid model.
A key focus of BJE’s sessions will be on improving skills with technology-based teaching tools, with members of the network sharing their expertise with others.
All school administrators have been following the deliberations of public health officials, national and local education organizations, and local school districts. While our BJE-affiliated administrators are quite aware of the arguments in favor of opening or remaining closed, all feel their first responsibility is to ensure the health and safety of their students and faculty members.
For more information about the work BJE is doing to help schools and the broader community with issues surrounding Covid-19, click here.