Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School is Back!

By Steve Albert

The first week of school was a delightful week! On Monday, our Early Childhood program opened for the new school year, welcoming about 125 infant, toddler and preschool children into our classrooms. On Tuesday, our Day School opened, with 185 students attending school, in person, all day, every day. The excitement was palpable, and the positive energy was inspiring. Like the first day of school each year (except last), students and teachers welcomed one another after a long summer break, and I could feel the community beginning to bond. Parents of our youngest students (1st grade, kindergarten, and early childhood) walked their children to their classrooms, and the parents of older students hugged and waved goodbye at the main entrance, snapping photos of the moment for posterity.

Needless to say, the on-going pandemic continues to impact our students’ experience. Mask mandates, physical distancing requirements, and class cohorting enhance student health and safety, while limiting the opportunities for children to interact and play in more natural ways. Lunch is outdoors – at least through September – and gatherings for Shabbat and other celebrations, which were previously school-wide celebrations, take place in smaller groups. And yet, we are together, in person, and the opportunities to build community and to work and play collaboratively are vastly greater than during the last 18 months.

The pandemic continues to impact the daily routines of teachers and school leaders, as well. Like some of my administrative colleagues, I still spend lots of time poring over OHA requirements, CDC recommendations, and scientific reports. The implementation of vaccination mandates, the purchase of air purifiers, and the management of shared spaces are time-consuming projects, but they are critically important to maintain a safe environment for our students, and the health and safety of our community remains our top priority.

Fortunately, the data suggests that our community is quite safe. Faculty, staff and older students benefit from the protection of vaccines. The goal of the COVID vaccines is to eliminate severe illness, hospitalization and death among the vaccinated, and all three approved vaccines have been wildly successful at this. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report indicated that the hospitalization rate of fully vaccinated individuals ranges, by state, from 0.00% to 0.06%, and the death rate of fully vaccinated individuals ranges, by state, from 0.00% to 0.01%. 

Though younger children are not yet vaccinated, “severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” according to a report issued last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Moreover, younger children will soon gain the benefit of vaccines. Large pediatric studies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are well underway. In mid-August, NPR reported that Pfizer will have enough data to support an emergency authorization for the vaccination of children ages 5-11 by late September, and the data for children under 5 will be submitted shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, we continue to do everything possible to ensure that children can continue to attend school safely and in person. In addition to the various protocols mentioned above, we are continuing to provide enhanced disinfection throughout the building, to maximize the intake of outside air in our HVAC system, and to practice frequent handwashing and sanitizing.

Despite the time and attention that the pandemic continues to demand, the laughter that newly surrounds me each day in a building filled with children serves as an important reminder that we are making progress, slowly and steadily, in our efforts to return normalcy to the lives of our kids. School is back.
 

Spotlight on ...

Refugee Restart Kits

It is with a great deal of excitement and immense gratitude that we report that the PJA community provided 11 restart kits containing a total of close to 100 items and $300 in gift cards to the Refugee Care Collective as part of their recent drive.

Read More about Refugee Restart Kits