PHOTO: Students gather in a tent at Portland Jewish Academy for a small-group program earlier this year. Beginning in March, families with students in kindergarten through fifth grade will have the option for in-person or distance learning.
BY DEBORAH MOON
Portland Jewish Academy will offer in-person learning for kindergarten through fifth grade beginning in March, nearly a year after the day school shifted to distance learning at the start of the pandemic.
Classrooms will open for kindergarten through third grade March 1, with fourth and fifth grades beginning March 8. Families of PJA’s 104 elementary students will have the option to continue distance learning or return to in-person learning. Middle school students may return to in-person learning in April after Passover break.
“We are very excited to welcome back students to in-person learning and have worked extremely hard to provide a full-day, five-day-a-week, in-person program to all K-5 students whose families elect to participate,” says PJA Executive Director Steve Albert.
Students who continue with virtual learning will have synchronous learning with their peers in the classroom as well as asynchronous time to work independently.
Families will have the option to shift between distance and in-person learning once this spring. Whichever option families choose now will remain in effect through May 3, when they can choose to shift between the two options. That decision will remain in effect through June 11, the last day of the school year.
“Our teachers are excitedly planning for their kindergarten-fifth grade students to return in March,” says Principal Merrill Hendin. “While we all know that this is going to be a very different way to teach and learn, we are thrilled to be able to have children in classrooms, building community in person with their peers, and doing all we can to ensure that the students at home will have many opportunities to join their peers via Zoom and other technology.”
“Our families have been very supportive of our decisions and are looking forward to having their children back in school,” adds Merrill.
Portland’s three Jewish day schools – PJA, Maayan Torah Day School and Maimonides Jewish Day School – all moved to online learning last March 13 when Gov. Kate Brown ordered schools across the state to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.The three schools offered distance learning for the rest of the school year.
This year, all three reopened their preschools as licensed early childhood programs. Maayan Torah and Maimonides both received emergency child-care licenses that enabled them to bring elementary-age children onto campus.
Teachers and other staff who elected to receive the COVID vaccine will have received both doses by the time in-person learning resumes at PJA.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support and patience of our families as we have sorted through a seemingly infinite number of details and modified our plans to comply with frequently changing guidance from the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority and the Multnomah County Health Department,” says Steve.
Some classes may not be in their regular rooms. The school may rearrange classroom assignments based on numbers to ensure there is at least 35 square feet per person (Oregon Dept. of Education mandate) and at least six feet of separation between individuals (ODE recommendation).
“We have sent numerous communications to families about the new guidelines, and we’ve held two Zoom sessions for parents,” says Steve. “Teachers are working with students to help them prepare.”
For more information on the school's safety guidelines and schedules, visit pjaproud.org/about-us/k-8-opening.