Many of us are still experiencing the heartache and pitfalls of this pandemic, and reopening has us fraught with worry – especially when it concerns children. Unfortunately, there’s no playbook for pandemics and no experts we can truly turn to for advice. But there are those who have amassed more experience than others who can help us.
Throughout the summer our Jewish community centers (JCCs) have been (re)opening their doors, and right now, they are some of the only Jewish institutions open in their communities. They have valuable advice to offer schools that are readying to do the same. JFNA was pleased to host a webinar with the JCC Association of North America and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools to identify top lessons. You can find the full webinar here.
Bubble Up for Safety
Some call them bubbles, others call them pods. Whichever name you use, the idea is to create cluster groups of fewer than 10 kids with one or two adults who all stick together – without interacting with others (exact numbers depend on public guidelines). This allows for a rich “on-site” experience while minimizing contact risks.
Buy More Bandwidth
With so many people on digital devices, having the right technology – and tech support – is essential for success. Things to consider include WiFi bandwidth, available outlets, and extension cords. Saving passwords, setting up appropriate security and child access (if needed) on computers, and bookmarking portals, are also helpful.
When It Comes to Guidelines – Don't Cut Corners
While it’s true that guidelines vary throughout the continent, administrators should err on the side of caution. If possible identify a group of medical doctors, public health officials, lawyers, and others who can volunteer and advise on these issues.
Load Up on PPE and Cleaning Supplies
There’s no such thing as ordering too many masks and cleaning supplies as there should always be extras on hand. Supplies can be purchased at discounted rates through the JewishTogether.org PPE Purchasing Portal.
Try Trading Places
Human resources have helped us rethink staffing and responsibilities. For example, some junior staff can pivot to help with tech support while more experienced staff can help with children who need additional attention. Ensuring you have people on hand to support kids' emotional needs is important. Sometimes they just “need a break” for a few minutes and it helps if they can be taken outside and allowed to distance and remove their mask for a bit.
Keep Communication Flowing
Transparent communication is essential. Be prepared to address myriad concerns regularly, as well as reinforce guidelines and rules. For children, parents can play a critical role but they need to be provided with comprehensive information and guidance to do so. For teachers and other staff, scenario planning, clear lines of responsibility, and regular staff meetings and updates make a huge difference in their ability and confidence to create safe environments
Keep Cool and Creative
We are all building and iterating as we go. Be flexible, creative, and nimble. No matter what happens, we are all in this together.
Find more resources for reopening here.