One teacher tested positive for COVID-19; school execs said the move was unrelated.
The scheduled Aug. 24 start of school at Farber Hebrew Day School – Yeshivat Akiva came and went after parents were notified that the first day of classes would be both postponed and include major modifications.
In a duo of emails, sent Aug. 20 and 21, a new plan was outlined to replace the previously slated hybrid in-school and virtual curriculum. Instead, school will begin on Monday, Aug. 31, with ECC, kindergarten and first grade students attending in-person classes — as originally set — and grades two through 12 moving into a virtual schedule. Reassessment of the situation will be ongoing but is expected to continue until after Sukkot, which ends the evening of Friday, Oct. 9.
The determination was made by the school’s executive committee, headed by Farber parent and president Dr. Ora Singer, who signed the letters to parents along with head of school Dr. Joshua Levisohn.
A Farber teacher tested positive for COVID-19 last week, after faculty and staff testing was done on Monday, Aug. 17, three days before the announcement of school opening changes was made. The individual is asymptomatic, and the family is now in quarantine. Farber executives said the positive test did not prompt the delay of the school’s opening or the addition of virtual learning.
The delay announcement followed a three-day teacher-orientation, attended by 80 faculty and staff members. According to details in one of the emails, “The reality on the ground … with people back in the building, made it clear that the roadmap to opening, as good as it is on paper, was going to take some time to implement properly with so many students and adults in the building.”
The emails’ authors referenced how numerous colleges also reverted to virtual learning after at first returning to campus.
Correspondence with parents cited the effort to balance the need for a safe and comfortable school setting with the educational needs of the students. It also addressed the decision to continue to hold in-person classes for only the younger children, with a reduced student body allowing the use of larger, open spaces and no interaction with other students and staff.
In addition to offering some virtual, small group learning for the lower grades, the letter said, “We also plan to find regular opportunities for these students to coalesce in safe environments, primarily outdoors to build relationships and provide social stimulus.”
Following the positive COVID-19 case, Farber said it followed state and medical guidance.
“The health department was promptly notified, the building was properly cleaned and contact tracing was conducted in accordance with current best practices,” according to one of the emails.
An Aug. 24 town hall Zoom meeting to address concerns and questions was attended by over 100 Farber parents, staff members and students.
Update (8/26/2020): Head of school Dr. Joshua Levisohn provided the following statement:
“Unlike office buildings or other places of work, schools are large, interactive, buzzing organisms. Seeing faculty and staff interact inside of the building made it clear that it will take time to adjust to our new reality and to the new protocols, especially as we prepared to greet all of the students this past Monday. To ensure everyone’s safety, we felt that it was necessary to conduct a staged opening rather than a single introduction of most of the children to school, and with that in mind, we made the extremely difficult, even heart-wrenching decision to change plans even at the very late date.
The pandemic has caused all of us to remain as flexibly as possible, as the reality, the medical guidance, the state guidelines and the data all seem to change on a daily basis. We are committed to providing the very best education possible to our children while remaining steadfast in our attempts to keep students, faculty and their families safe.”