Hillel Day School
(Courtesy of Hillel Day School)

Local Jewish schools are preparing distance learning options for students; some early childhood centers are also closing.

1:08 PM: This story has been updated.

Hillel Day School sent out a memo to the Hillel community on Friday, March 13 informing everyone that one of their teachers in the 1-2 Learning Community has tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“He is a beloved and valued member of our school community, a teacher whose dynamic
classroom is always filled with positive energy,” read Hillel’s statement. “We wish him and all those affected a speedy recovery.”

The teacher, a resident of Washtenaw County, tested positive for the virus following domestic travel and is at home recovering. The affected teacher’s students and colleagues in the school’s 1-2 learning community are in self-quarantine through March 23.

“We recognize that this development may cause anxiety for you and your children,” Naty Katz, interim head of school, said in a statement. “It is important to remain calm as we move forward together. We stand ready to help you in any way possible. We extend a refuah shleimah to anyone affected.”

Hillel will be closed on March 13 and will remain closed until further notice. Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA) also announced that they would be closed on Friday, March 13.

In addition, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all K-12 schools (public, private and boarding) to close throughout the state of Michigan beginning Monday, March 16 until April 5.

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Governor Whitmer said in a statement. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”

Whitmer Bans Large Gatherings

Whitmer also signed an executive order March 13 prohibiting all gatherings of more than 250 people from now through April 5, as part of the state’s broader efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The order could restrict local Jewish families’ plans for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs or other large gatherings. Many local congregations have already announced their own cancellations of worship services.

The order makes exceptions for buying groceries, riding mass transit and industrial or manufacturing work.

Remote Learning

Governors in Ohio, Kentucky and Maryland have taken similar steps in closing schools in attempts to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health of children and families.

Before the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 hit Michigan, Farber Hebrew Day School, Hillel and FJA had been preparing and exploring strategies to provide remote instruction via distance learning technology to ensure that their students’ education was not disrupted.

Every FJA student has their own MacBook laptop, which will enable them to stay connected to their teachers. According to Shana Kantor, director of advancement at FJA, faculty can use FJA’s Learning Management System, Schoology, as well as the full Google Education Suite, to create assignments and assessments online.

All students at Hillel have their own Chromebooks, allowing them to continue their education while out of school. According to Hillel’s statement; “all ECC-4 instruction will be asynchronous, meaning students don’t have to be online at the same time as their classmates. 5-8 students will have synchronous activities, such as hosting an online discussion or activity or a recorded lesson during the school day.”

Hillel teachers will be using the applicable learning platforms, Remini for ECC, Seesaw for K-4 and Google Hangout/Meet for 5-8, to post assignments for students. Teachers will also be readily available to answer student questions and concerns via email, live chat or video call.

Temple Israel’s Early Childhood Center will be closing as well, beginning on Monday, March 16 and will remain closed until April 20.

As of March 13, the Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) Sarah and Irving Pitt Child Development Center will remain open.

There have been 12 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan as of March 12. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the cases include both male and female adults from Oakland County, Ingham County, Kent County, Montcalm County, St. Clair County and Washtenaw County.