As school begins online, some offer childcare

PHOTO: Portland Jewish Academy students each received a kit containing all the supplies they will need to help them be successful learners in their home classrooms. 


Most students in Oregon have begun the school year in online or distance-learning settings. Under Gov. Kate Brown’s guidelines, Oregon counties must have fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people for three weeks straight before in-person classes can resume. Multnomah County, home to Portland Jewish Academy and Maimonides Jewish Day School, needs to hit roughly 80 known cases per week for schools to open in person. The case rate for the week of Aug. 30 was 311 or 31 cases per 100,000. That same week Clackamas County, home to Maayan Torah Day School, had 125 cases or 31 per 100,000 population.
The three Portland-area Jewish day schools each received funds from the Greater Portland Jewish Community COVID Emergency Fund to support distance learning.

Maayan Torah Day School
2 SW Touchstone Dr., Lake Oswego |

Maayan Torah Day School began the school year Sept. 14 with students in kindergarten through eighth grade enrolled in an online platform. On the same day, the campus opened its doors to elementary-age children as a licensed childcare facility. Preschool childcare resumed Aug. 30, two weeks after preschool summer camp ended.
All school assignments and video lessons will be posted on the online platform. Elementary students in childcare will be able to access the online platform while on campus and will have experiences that will assist them with the online learning process. 
“During childcare, elementary students will be able to have age-appropriate learning experiences consistent with an educationally rich childcare program,” says Rabbi Yerachmiel Kalter, Maayan Torah Judaics principal and director of development. 
For instance, if the students are studying trees in science, the childcare teacher might take the children on a nature walk to identify different trees. Rabbi Kalter says that students not in childcare would be encouraged to describe and photograph trees in their own yard or neighborhood.
Most of the elementary teachers in the online program are spending part of their day assisting with the childcare program. So a third-grade math teacher might demonstrate a couple of long-division problems to the kids in childcare with students at home able to participate via Zoom.
“Since we are a small school, we can cater our online learning to specific needs,” he says. “We are hearing from online-only families they would like some one-on-one (online) sessions.”
The state mandates 35 square feet per child within the classrooms. Most classrooms are near capacity, but “we have room for a couple more children if we had late enrollees.”
Rabbi Kalter says the school anticipates being able to return to in-person learning sometime during the school year.
“We are giving them the online education they need for solid learning for their grade,” he says. “But we want them to feel part of the larger class unit. We are building a bridge for when the time comes.”
In the meantime, he says, “We felt it was extremely important to have a childcare setting that focuses on Jewish values and brings Jewish holidays to life.”

Portland Jewish Academy
6651 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland |

Portland Jewish Academy began online classes Sept. 1. During the first week, all kindergarten to eighth-grade students received a kit of supplies and materials to enhance PJA’s distance learning program. 
PJA has an Emergency Child Care license to serve children through age 5 in the licensed early childhood program. However, for a combination of health and safety, logistical and financial reasons, PJA did not apply for an Emergency Child Care License for children between the ages of 5 and 12.
PJA’s school day runs from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Each grade has its own schedule that includes synchronous learning with general studies teachers, Hebrew/Jewish studies teachers and specialists (art, PE, music, library, cooking, gardening, etc.). The schedule includes time for class meetings, advisory sessions, individual help sessions, breaks, individual or group study, and larger online gatherings to celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
“Jewish life is at the core of our mission,” says Principal Merrill Hendin. “To this end, we will continue to provide online Jewish life programming to celebrate holidays (chagim), Shabbat and to ensure that our Kehillah (community) continues to benefit from engaging in the Jewish life of our school. Jewish studies and Hebrew remain a strong and essential component of a PJA education.”
Since current guidelines allow for limited, in-person instruction, PJA will offer small, optional, in-person sessions to build community and support students’ social and emotional needs. 
PJA is not currently accepting any additional students for this school year. 
“We hope to return to a hybrid or in-person model at some point during the year,” says Executive Director Steve Albert. “Because we anticipate returning to in-person and/or hybrid learning at some point in the year, we must strictly limit the size of our classes to ensure that we have adequate space to accommodate all students when we reopen the day school campus.” 
In the meantime, the school is well positioned to meet student needs online.  
“Throughout the summer, our teachers and administrators have been engaged in planning and training to ensure that we are using the technological tools, software and platforms that will best enable us to offer online instruction that incorporates the core components of a PJA education – project-based learning, collaboration among students, strong classroom communities and active engagement,” says Albert. “We have adopted software, designed schedules and equipped our supply kits to ensure that our distance learning program provides a rich, engaging learning experience that is appropriate for each age and grade.”

Maimonides Jewish Day School
6612 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland |

Maimonides Jewish Day School began online learning Sept. 2 for elementary and middle school students. 
“Maimonides will be running as a school virtually, as the legal requirement, though offering emergency childcare for families who need it,” says Principal Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm.
Emergency care is available for elementary ages 8:30 am-3:30 pm Monday-Friday. No space is currently available.
“Bringing students together and offering a place for children to interact and grow socially and emotionally is of extreme importance,” say Rabbi Wilhelm. “We are happy to be able to offer this opportunity to the community.”
The Gan-Portland Jewish Preschool, on the same campus, resumed childcare Sept. 1. 


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