With autumn only weeks away, both schools and parents are increasingly feeling the pressure to decide how to safely educate their children.
It was a decision that Randi Orshan had to weigh carefully, as both a parent and an elementary school principal at Ohr Chadash Academy, which has decided to open its doors to students this year. In fact, two of her children will be attending Ohr Chadash in the fall, she said.
“Their mother’s the principal of the school,” Orshan said. “So that weighs heavily on our decisions.” She added that “it’s important for the children to be in school, to have a social, emotional environment.”
Orshan spoke glowingly of the work done by the academy’s Head of School Deborah Rapoport and others to create a safe learning environment. “We put the protocols together months ago, working through all the guidelines,” she said, “so I am comfortable knowing that the school is taking every precaution necessary for the children to go into school.”
In past years, Ohr Chadash, which goes from preschool to eighth grade, has had as many as 315 students enrolled, Orshan said. She estimated that approximately 300 students would be attending this year, both in person and virtually.
The school day will look rather different from what students were once used to. Some of those changes include parents being required to fill out an online form via the “ParentLocker” communication system on how their children are feeling, Orshan said. Kindergarten students and above will be required to wear masks, while teachers will wear both masks and face shields if they are within a certain distance of students. Additionally, students will be “co-horting,” which will entail each class keeping mostly to themselves. At various times of the day students will be required to wash their hands as well.
A greater emphasis will be given to outdoor learning, Orshan said. Tents will be set up outside of the school, while special “environmentally friendly learning stations” will use tree trunks as seats.
With four children of her own and a stepdaughter in New York, Orshan is no stranger to a parent’s concern for a child’s health.
“I speak to my children as a mother about safety and making sure that they follow the protocols,” Orshan said, adding that “frequent hand washing is stressed in our home.”
“I believe that we are following all the protocols and, God willing, doing everything right to bring the children back,” Orshan said. “So I feel more than comfortable having my own children come back into the building this year.”