Road Back to GOA

Covid 19 Updates

Golda Och Academy is tracking news and information about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community and travel destinations. This is a quickly evolving situation — please check this page regularly for updates.

GOA Updates

List of 21 items.

  • August 17: Head of School Message: COVID-19 Testing

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    We are pleased to inform you that as of today we have entered into a strategic partnership with the medical professionals at PM Pediatrics on behalf of our school and community. 
     
    What does this mean for our GOA students, faculty and staff? 
     
    First and foremost, PM Pediatrics will be assisting us with COVID-19 testing for any student, faculty or staff member who wishes to visit either their Livingston or Springfield locations. The testing process at PM Pediatrics is covered by insurance and consists of a virtual telehealth visit followed by the scheduling of an appointment at one of their locations. Based on interest following signups through their web portal (all instructions regarding scheduling and testing can be found below), they will be opening their locations at specifically designated hours just for our GOA community in order to fully expedite this process in advance of the school year. This rapid antigen testing will enable those being tested to receive results on the same day that the test is taken. For students who are tested at PM Pediatrics, a special form can be completed during the visit which will allow their team to send results directly to our school nurses. 
     
    Additionally, this strategic partnership will provide us with access to the PM Pediatrics medical team throughout the school year both for consultation and for rapid COVID-19 testing should we require it. Simply put, if someone is showing signs of illness during the school year they can be immediately referred to PM Pediatrics by either Nurse Roberta or Nurse Ilena. Our community will receive timely service and we will be able to address any and all potential health issues immediately. While there is a tremendous amount that’s still unknown about COVID-19, we do understand that the sooner we receive information that we can act on, the safer that we can keep our entire GOA community.
     
    For those students, faculty or staff who have already scheduled COVID-19 testing elsewhere, there is no need to change those arrangements. The opportunity to be tested at PM Pediatrics is still very much your choice and so long as you are doing PCR or antigen testing, you can do it anywhere that testing is administered.
     
    Please note that testing is only valid if done within 14 days of your first day back on campus (for students that is September 8 when we will be holding lice checks; and for faculty that date coincides with the first professional development day on September 2).
     
    As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to Nurse Roberta (Lower School) or Nurse Ilena (Upper School) should you have any additional questions. 
     
    In partnership,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School  
  • August 11: The Road Back to GOA — Reopening Plan

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    We are pleased to be able to share our school’s reopening guide, The Road Back to GOA, with our community today. In this guide you will see important information about new policies and procedures that we will be implementing for the coming school year in an effort to ensure a safe and responsible return to on-campus learning for our students and teachers. Ultimately, we know that in order for us to make this return to campus a reality in September, it will require the ongoing commitment of every member of our GOA community.    
     
    Recognizing that there may be questions after you’ve had a chance to review this document, we will be holding a number of orientations and technology training sessions in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year for both our parents and students. While the list of programs is below, a more detailed calendar with specific dates, times and Zoom links will be forthcoming. 
     
    Thank you for your continued partnership and support of our school,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • July 31: Head of School Message: Reopening FAQs #2

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community, 
     
    I hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones staying well and enjoying the summer. Our team very much appreciated the positive response — and additional questions — that we received following last week’s community update. In an effort to keep our GOA community informed, we are pleased to share more information below. This set of questions and answers have been generated as a result of the ongoing work and decisions being made by our GOA Reopening Team (please click here to visit our GOA Fall 2020 Reopening Plan page), as well as those that were submitted by members of our community. 
     
    Please take a few moments to read to the end of this email and please also let us know if you have any additional questions. Please feel free to email Glenn Slavin, Director of Marketing and Communications, with questions you’d like to see addressed in the future.   
     
    In partnership, 
     
    Adam Shapiro 
    Head of School


    Frequently Asked Questions
    Please note that all answers below are based on the most current, up-to-date information and analysis that we have at our disposal. All of this information is subject to change depending on a number of factors that may ultimately prove to be out of our control.
     
     
    Q: Governor Murphy continues to update the Travel Advisory list of states that require a 14-day quarantine upon returning to NJ. What should we do if we are planning a trip/visit to one of these states?
     
    A: We ask that all families visit the NJ Travel Advisory site (which is updated regularly) to learn more about the states that are currently part of the Travel Advisory list. As a kehillah(community) that looks out for the health and well-being of our fellow families, we ask that everyone in our GOA community take this advisory seriously. If you are traveling to one of these states, please plan to return to New Jersey no later than August 24 to ensure that you are in compliance with this order. Students and faculty will not be permitted to physically return to school prior to the end of a mandatory quarantine period. Please note that this will be true prior to school starting and throughout the school year (so long as the Travel Advisory list is in effect).

    Q: Has a final decision been made regarding the Online Learning Platforms and video conferencing software that will be used for the 2020-21 school year?
     
    A: Following extensive research and work by our educational technology team, the following online learning platforms will be used during the 2020-2021 school year: 
     
    • Students in grades Pre-K through 3rd will be using Seesaw.
     
     
    • We have upgraded our school to the Zoom Enterprise platform which means that all virtual meetings, hybrid classes and other programs throughout the school year will be broadcast using Zoom. 
     
    We appreciate the importance of training all students and parents on these platforms and will be sharing more information on when that training will take place. Meanwhile, our faculty is already participating in professional development focused on this technology in order to ensure a smooth and positive experience for everyone.

    Q: Given the different considerations and procedures that will be in effect this year, what will a school day look like under the different scenarios. 
     
    A: Our teams on both campuses are still in the process of finalizing all of our new daily procedures and will outline them further in our Reopening Policy Handbook, which will be made available in early August. As it relates to the daily schedule, some things will be consistent throughout our entire institution and others will be division and grade-level specific. The length of the day is projected to remain the same at this time, though we are currently exploring whether staggered arrival and/or dismissal may be helpful. More information on those procedures will be forthcoming. Additionally, we expect that while on campus, students will be more limited in terms of their movement throughout the buildings. 
     
    • In the Lower School, students will primarily remain in 1-2 classrooms each day. However, we will also use additional spaces for break out groups, individual support, and larger meetings (appropriately physically-distanced). 
     
    • In the Upper School, we will also be limiting movement between classrooms and a staggered bell schedule will be put in place in order to decrease density in the halls as students and faculty move throughout the day.  
     
    • On both campuses, we plan to maximize outdoor space — both for classes and lunch/recess — and will share more details in upcoming communications.
     
    If we find ourselves operating exclusively on a remote schedule, we are committed to a robust, engaging, standardized schedule (Pre-K through 12th) that is implemented from day one. Students and parents will have access to these schedules in advance and the periods of the day will reflect the different modalities of instruction. 
     
    • Our Lower School education team has created sample schedules that combine live instruction, a blend of live and asynchronous instruction (ie. teachers may begin live or post a short mini lesson, followed by independent or small group work or students may work independently, followed by a group wrap up), specials that may be both live and/or asynchronous, and virtual homework and academic support. To view these sample schedules for grades 1-5, please click here. Please note that these schedules are merely a guide for your reference and are subject to change in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, a more detailed breakdown, by general and Judaic studies, will be provided in advance of the start of the school year. Our team continues to finalize schedules for early childhood grades (Pre-K and Gan) and those will be shared in the coming weeks.
     
    • Middle School and High School schedules will remain consistent (albeit with some minor changes to class timing). Student-specific schedules will be completed — for both on-campus and remote instruction — in the coming weeks and will be shared with students when they are finalized.

    Q: In the past there has been a PA-run lunch program in the Lower School and a lunch ordering system which allowed students to order from local kosher vendors in the Upper School, will these lunch programs be happening in school this year? 
     
    A: Given the many challenges that exist when it comes to food services, we will be suspending our school lunch program — on both campuses — for the start of the school year. While we anticipate this will remain in effect for the majority of the school year, our team will revisit this decision - and will continue to work closely with our Parents Association — once the school year gets under way. All students will be required to bring their own dairy or pareve brown bag lunch in accordance with our school’s kashrut policy (which can be found in our Student Handbook). All packed lunches and snacks should be nut-free.
    Q: Has GOA received any information from NJSIAA regarding the fall season of Varsity athletics?
     
    A: Our Athletic Director, Mr. Dennis Kozar, has been in close touch with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) regarding the upcoming fall sports season. While there is much that’s still undecided, the plan that they’ve released to-date calls for high school fall sports (Boys and Girls Soccer, Girls Volleyball, Girls Tennis, Co-Ed Cross Country) to begin with preseason practices in late August (HS athletes will receive more information from Mr. Kozar) and competition beginning during the first week of October and lasting for six weeks. While we have not yet made a final decision on our school’s participation, we want to know what the parents of our fall student-athletes are thinking. For those who have played in the past or are thinking about it for this year, please complete this brief survey.
     
    Q: Will there be Middle School athletics this fall? 
     
    A: Mr. Kozar is currently in discussion with the Athletic Directors from other schools to determine the path forward for our Middle School sports teams for the fall. While many schools that we compete against have already determined that they will not be participating in team sports this fall, we are still doing our due diligence and will be back in touch with our Middle School families once we have more to share. Should we not be able to participate in team sports, Mr. Kozar and his team are already working on plans for our middle school student-athletes to continue their athletic pursuits here in school.


    Q: Will Aftercare and Funtracks be happening in the Lower School this year?
     
    A: Ms. Jul McCormick-Anesh sent out a letter and survey to our Lower School families last week regarding Aftercare and Funtracks for the coming school year. In order to ensure the safety of all students and faculty involved, we will be making changes to these programs this year. To learn more and to respond to the survey - to provide input and express interest in these programs — please click here to complete the survey by Monday, August 3 at 11 am.




  • July 23: Head of School Message: Reopening FAQs

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community, 
     
    Our Golda Och Academy Reopening Task Force continues to work hard in preparation for our return to on-campus instruction on September 9 (outlined on the Fall 2020 Reopening Plan page on our website). We also understand that our ability to be on campus remains contingent on the positive public health trends in our community/State, with the continuation of the low rate of COVID transmission in NJ being the biggest driver in this equation. As we engage in this important planning work in many different areas, we continue to follow guidance set forth by Governor Murphy, the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools, the CDC and AAP and our own medical experts.  
     
    We very much appreciate hearing from our parents and students with the questions that are top of mind and in the coming weeks we will be sending out updates (like that which you see below) to further inform you about our work and planning. As we look ahead to future communications — and to the completion of our 2020-21 Reopening Policy Handbook which will be shared in early August — please feel free to email Glenn Slavin, Director of Marketing and Communications, with questions you’d like to see addressed. Our goal is to answer those questions which have come up most often in an effort to keep our community well-informed.   
     
    In partnership, 
     
    Adam Shapiro 
    Head of School


    Frequently Asked Questions
    Please note that all answers below are based on the most current, up-to-date information and analysis that we have at our disposal. All of this information is subject to change depending on a number of factors that may ultimately prove to be out of our control.  
     
    Q: Recognizing that the goal is to return to school for on-campus instruction beginning on September 9, is it possible to safely and responsibly fit all of our students into our two buildings?
     
    A: Our team has completed an extensive space analysis and, yes, we all can fit. In order to do so, we are being creative with our space usage. This means repurposing some of our larger spaces and utilizing outdoor spaces under tents and on our fields. Additionally, some protective barriers have already been installed — using plexiglass and other materials — in order to ensure that classrooms, offices and other spaces are as safe as possible.  
     
     
    Q: Will we be utilizing outdoor spaces?
     
    A: Yes. Through our partnership with local camps and vendors we have secured a number of tents to be used on both campuses. It is our goal to use these spaces both for instruction and for lunch/snack time. We also recognize that this is a very weather-dependent solution and we are still in the process of investigating what this may look like when the weather changes in a few months.
     
    Q: Will we be implementing a hybrid model of instruction where some students are in school and others are at home?
     
    A: Yes. We are outfitting all classrooms with the necessary audio/video equipment to successfully implement this model. We are doing this for multiple reasons. First, for those families who may not yet feel comfortable sending their child(ren) back to school, we want to ensure that all students have the ability to access instruction from their teachers. (If you have not yet had a chance to complete the survey from Mr. Shapiro’s last update, you can find it by clicking here). Second, in the case where a student(s) may have been exposed to COVID and require a mandatory quarantine, having this system in place enables learning to continue.
     
    Q: What is the status of Online Learning Platforms for the 2020-21 school year?  
     
    A: Our educational technology team is in the last stages of finalizing (and purchasing) the online learning platforms that we will be using this year. This has been an extensive and exhaustive process that has included many conversations with colleagues in the field, while also incorporating the feedback received from students, teachers and parents throughout the last few months of the school year in an effort to ensure that we are putting the absolute best software in place. Those decisions will be finalized in the coming days and will be communicated by Mr. Herskowitz and Mrs. Siegel. Our faculty will be fully trained/prepared to implement them beginning on the first day of school and both parents and students will learn more about them and receive the necessary training/orientation. 
     
    Q: Will my child need access to a device/technology this year?
     
    A: Yes. Given that we will be implementing these new technology platforms, it is important that all students have access to a device this year. Recognizing that all platforms and programs we will be using are web-based, we are not requiring any specific piece of technology. Additional guidance will be forthcoming from our educational technology team and campus principals as the use of technology will look different depending on the age(s) of your child(ren).
     
    Q: What health protocols will be in place this year?
     
    A: Our Health and Safety team — which is being led by our school nurses, Nurse Ilena Kasdan and Nurse Roberta Coopersmith — have been meeting regularly, working closely with their colleagues from other NJAIS schools, combing through all of the guidance from the State, CDC and the AAP in order to finalize all of our health protocols/procedures for the coming year. Additionally, we are fortunate to have Dr. Jeffrey Saperstein (school parent, alumni parent and pediatrician) on board to consult with our team on the policies being put in place. While plans are still being finalized, we do know that all students and faculty will complete a daily health screening — both through an app and upon their arrival to school. There will also be updated policies in place for what happens when a student/teacher become sick during the day, which rooms on each campus will be reserved as isolation spaces in these cases, along with guidance on how long a student/teacher will have to remain out of school should they be ill — whether with COVID or any other illness. 
     
    Q: What hygiene/sanitation procedures will be in place? Do we have enough PPE on-hand? 
     
    A: We are fortunate to have a large supply of PPE, disinfecting products, sanitizers and electrostatic cleaners already on-hand. Additionally, every classroom and large space on both campuses will be outfitted with HEPA air purifiers (Golda Och Academy Receives Grant from the Healthcare Foundation of NJ). We are also in the process of developing and finalizing extensive new cleaning protocols that will be in effect all day on each campus.
     
    Q: How can parents/students best prepare for our students to be wearing masks all day? 
     
    A: Our policy will require that all students, faculty and staff be wearing masks all day while on campus. During lunch and snack times, students will have the opportunity to remove their masks and will be properly socially distanced at all times while they are removed. Our school will not be providing masks (except in case of emergency if something happens to a child’s mask) as finding ones that fit your child(ren) properly is incredibly important. All families should begin working on mask-training this summer in order that students are comfortable and ready for the start of the school year.
     
    Here are some tips for mask-training from the CDC:
     
    • Let your child(ren) pick out the ones they like.
    • Teach them to wear their mask properly (ensuring that nose, mouth and chin are covered along with regular cleaning).
    • Adults should model the importance of mask-wearing for their children.
    • Create a plan to build up stamina in your children by having them wear a mask for an increased amount of time each day.
    • Make it fun -- this helps to make mask-wearing normal and not a scary or abnormal practice.


  • July 15: Golda Och Academy Receives Grant from the Healthcare Foundation of NJ

    As part of the school’s Reopening Plan for Fall, 2020, Golda Och Academy is excited to announce that it is the recipient of a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. The grant is for the purchase of HEPA air purifiers to be installed in all of its classrooms and offices on both of their campuses in West Orange, NJ and is one of many measures being undertaken by the school to ready their campuses for in-person instruction in the fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Head of School, Adam Shapiro, “our school and community are truly grateful to our partners at the Healthcare Foundation of NJ who are helping us to fulfill our mission during these unprecedented and difficult times as we deal with the impact of COVID-19.” HFNJ Executive Director, Marsha Atkind stated “Nothing could be more important in this era of Covid-19 than making sure that children and teachers return to a safe environment when school opens in the fall. We at HFNJ are happy to partner with the Golda Och Academy to help ensure safety on both their West Orange campuses.”
  • July 15: Head of School Update: Reopening Plan

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    As we continue to move through the most unprecedented and challenging summer in the history of our institution, I wanted to take this opportunity to update our community on our progress. This powerful moment in time — one filled with uncertainty and changing by the day — has forced us all to think differently and more creatively as we approach the 2020-21 school year. There are a few things that can be said with certainty:
     
    1. This WILL be a year unlike any other since our school’s founding in 1965.
    2. We will continue to do everything in our power to be ready for live, in-person instruction come September.
    3. Ensuring the safety and well-being of all of our students and teachers will continue to be the guiding principles behind every decision we make. 
     
    Where do we stand today?
     
    Our goal remains to bring everyone back to campus; and we are also working diligently to ensure that we are prepared for any one of the three possibilities (outlined on the Fall 2020 Reopening Plan page on our website) for instruction this year. 
     
    The ongoing work I have been engaged in as a member of the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools Task Force on School Reopening has proved to be quite valuable as it has enabled us to work closely with our independent school counterparts, maintain our independence in our decision-making, and at the same time benefit from the valuable guidance received from the State, CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics. 
     
    Operations, Health & Safety
     
    Our Operations and Health & Safety team — which is made up of educators, our school nurses and medical professionals, has spent a great deal of time considering myriad plans to keep our community safe and healthy. Members of our team, along with outside consultants, have worked to ensure that all spaces in our buildings - including tents to be used outside — are set up properly and used in a way that ensures that safe and healthy learning can take place. They are also in the process of finalizing protocols for daily health screenings that we will share more about in the coming weeks. 
     
    From the standpoint of health and safety, we are working hard to identify how to best maintain appropriate social distancing given the range of different spaces on both campuses. While there are some spaces where we are confident that this can happen easily, there are realities on both campuses that we know will make this difficult. 
     
    To that end, all students, teachers and staff will be required to wear masks all day while on campus. Please know that this will be non-negotiable and we highly recommend that all families work with their children (starting right away) to both acquire and use masks while at home. Especially for our youngest students, it’s imperative that a level of comfort be established before the first day of school. Recognizing that the type of mask each individual wears is a personal decision, we ask that families make those purchases, test out different products and acquire enough of them so that students can have extras with them every day in school.
     
    We also take seriously the need to have clean air and improved airflow on both campuses. To that end, we are fortunate to have received a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey (please see a link to the press release at the bottom of this email) to purchase HEPA filtration air purifiers for every room, including all classrooms and office spaces. Properly filtered and circulated air is critical when it comes to keeping our students and faculty safe and healthy and we are quite pleased to have been able to secure this equipment. 
     
    Our Educational Program, Technology and Systems
     
    This task force group — made up of teachers and administrators — have been working to finalize plans for the online learning platforms we will implement this year. Their work has included gathering feedback from their colleagues, students and peers in other institutions in an effort to determine what will work best for our GOA students, faculty and parents. We look forward to sharing more information about those platforms in the coming weeks along with opportunities for both parents and students to learn more about them and receive the necessary training. As has been stated previously, our students will be trained on these platforms and using them beginning on day one in order to ensure that there is no lag should we need to move between the different instructional learning scenarios this year. To that end, we highly recommend that families have plans in place for each of their children to have access to a device for the 2020-21 school year. 
     
    Additionally, as we prepare for all three operating scenarios, we recognize that there may be times when students may need to learn remotely and/or when teachers may need to instruct from outside of the classroom. Thus it’s imperative that we have the proper technology in place in every classroom. Currently our technology team is in the process of identifying/purchasing the proper equipment, installing in our classrooms and putting training programs in place for our faculty. 
     
    We also understand that, even with all of these precautionary measures in place, some families may still not be comfortable with sending their children to school for in-person instruction. If you anticipate that your child(ren) will need to participate in school remotely, please be sure to complete the following form to let us know in order that we can continue to plan accordingly.
     
     
    Expectations for the coming weeks from GOA and our Kehillah
     
    Our GOA team will continue to monitor all communication and guidance from Governor Murphy, NJAIS and the CDC as we work to confirm under which scenario to begin our academic year. As we are all well aware, the current COVID-19 situation remains fluid and there are still many unanswered questions about what the coming weeks may or may not look like. We appreciate the desire of all of our parents and students to learn more about our plans and look forward to sharing our 2020-21 Reopening Policy Handbook in early August. 
     
    In the meantime, we are asking that everyone in our GOA kehillah (community) continue to do their part to stay safe and healthy and not let their guard down when it comes to social distancing, mask wearing and proper hygiene. We have successfully flattened the curve here in NJ thanks to that diligence and the only way that we will be able to successfully return to school — and remain there — is if everyone continues to take these efforts seriously. One need look no further than the daily papers to see what has happened in places that have moved too quickly or ignored this important guidance. 
     
    I want to once again reiterate my thanks to all of our students, faculty and parents for their ongoing patience and support throughout. Looking forward to being back in touch and sharing more information soon.
     
    In partnership,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • June 10: Head of School Update (Video)

  • June 1: Head of School Message: The Need For Kavod (Respect)

    “Let the honor of your fellow human being be as precious to you as your own.” 
    Mishnah Avot 2:10
     
    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    Our television screens and social media feeds have been filled with so many painful and powerful images over these past few days and I have no doubt that it has led to many difficult conversations in your homes. There are so many questions and, unfortunately, very few answers. Yet, it is incumbent upon all of us to face this reality head on. 
     
    The core Jewish values of kavod (respect) and tikkun olam (repair of the world) that we hold dear in our school and community ring especially true at this particular moment in time. We therefore must engage in that work to repair our world and support our children as they work to find their own voices right now.
     
    Following the tragic death of George Floyd last week and the subsequent protests and unrest in Minneapolis and all over our country, we are all struggling to process these events. As Jews, any form of discrimination or racism is an anathema to all we believe in. Fortunately, our tradition offers many ways for us to respond and this moment provides us with a valuable opportunity to speak with our children about what it means to show respect and, above all, treat others the way we wish to be treated.   
     
    As a community, we appreciate that our students need time together to process what they are seeing and hearing in order to determine how they can and should respond. Of course, this is all the more difficult as we continue to be apart from one another. There are plans in place for programming for our Middle and High School students (beginning tomorrow) to both educate and create a safe space to have these conversations. While our youngest students will not have formal assemblies, their teachers will find ways to affirm the critical message that Mrs. Siegel highlighted this morning in her video about the importance of being an upstander even in the most difficult of situations.  
     
    In an effort to further support the partnership between school and home, we encourage you to invite your children into these conversations with you. We are grateful to our friends at Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools for putting a resource board together with some very valuable information regarding talking to students about George Floyd and racism
     
    Following the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, where Dr. King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z’l marched arm in arm, Heschel said, “I felt my legs were praying.” It is that powerful image and thought that I hope we will embody as a community at this time.
     
    Sending my best wishes for continued good health, safety and a return to calm and peace.
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • May 15: Head of School Update: End of the Year and Looking Ahead

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    As we look ahead to completing the school year on remote instruction, I know that we are all filled with many emotions as we consider the toll that learning and teaching in this way takes on students, teachers and parents alike from both an educational and social-emotional perspective. Physical distancing has made parenting, schooling, working — and just about everything else! — much more difficult. Our routines have been forced to change. For many, the idea of downtime is a thing of the past, and while technology has enabled us to maintain some social connectivity (and in some cases to reconnect with family and friends we may have drifted from) it by no means replaces the real thing which we all — young and old alike — crave. The reality is that our students, parents and teachers are experiencing stress and anxiety while facing down this pandemic and we all look to school as a normalizing and stabilizing force.
     
    But, school has changed too. 
     
    As educators, we want nothing more than for school to be that force as well. However, we must all maintain the proper perspective as it relates to the situation we find ourselves in. Just as our parents and caregivers are doing their best to balance work and personal responsibilities, our teachers are doing the same as many of them are parents and caregivers as well. Thank you to those who have reached out to show your appreciation. Thank you as well to those who have reached out directly to share constructive feedback and suggestions with our team. As we discussed in our parent meetings earlier this month, the partnership between school and home has never been more important than it is at this moment. 
     
    Planning for 2020-21
     
    I have accepted an invitation from Carole Everett, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS) to serve on the NJAIS Task Force on School Re-Opening. Along with five colleagues from around the state, I am honored to serve in this capacity and represent our school and community in these important conversations. 
     
    While specifics are still being developed as guidance changes by the day, we know that our reopening in the fall will be complex and will involve new guidelines and procedures for us to follow. Our team is preparing for increased health measures in our buildings as well as additional social-emotional support for both our students and faculty. Our school is committed to following the guidance of our local, state and federal officials as it relates to safely reopening and, as such, our thinking is centered around the following possible scenarios:
     
    • Scenario #1: We are open for in-person instruction in September, with modifications made to both schedules and classroom assignments in order to be in compliance with any and all health protocols.  
     
    • Scenario #2: We open in September with a hybrid model — a combination of in-school and remote instruction — that also includes the additional scheduling and health measures as stated in Scenario #1.  
     
    • Scenario #3: We begin the school year with a comprehensive and educationally responsible remote instruction plan spanning Pre-K through 12th grade that includes a set schedule for each grade, a robust blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning, strategically selected technology platforms, and appropriate orientations for student and parent use. 
     
    While we are all hopeful for Scenario #1 to come to fruition in September, we must be prepared for all three possibilities for the fall and we will be. As such, our team will be engaged in the following over the coming weeks and into the summer:
     
    • Ongoing consultation with our NJAIS colleagues as best practices for remote instruction are defined and implemented so that we can meet and exceed these practices in educationally responsible ways. 
     
    • Prioritizing professional development for our entire team in the areas of technology, social-emotional health and well-being and remote instruction. 
     
    • Identifying and securing all necessary resources — personnel, software and hardware — in order to ensure that we are able to operate at the highest level whether in-person or remote.
     
    I will continue to communicate (and expand on the above thinking) with our community regularly between now and the start of the new school year as developments unfold. 
     
    Milestones and End of Year Programming - Save the Dates
     
    As we discussed in our recent grade/division-level parent meetings, milestone and end-of-year celebrations are all being reimagined in order to celebrate our students at these key moments in time. As you will see on the list below some of these events will be held live, some will be pre-recorded and “launched” on a certain day and others will have a mix of live and pre-recorded content. Ultimately, all of them will provide students with an opportunity to shine and our community with the opportunity to kvell!
     
    Our Community
     
    Dr. Todd Rose of the Harvard Graduate School of Education aptly notes, "Ultimately you can have all the tech in the world, but really great learning is a human endeavor…It's about the teacher and student relationship." At Golda Och Academy we are committed to that relationship both on campus and on remote. Our community is incredibly strong because we care about and look after one another — through both the good and difficult times. If you are in need of additional support, would like to speak with one of our professionals and/or need a referral for services, please know that we are here and stand ready to help.
     
    Thank you for your continued partnership and the trust you place in us every day. Sending my best to all of our parents, students and teachers for good health and safety as we continue to weather this storm. 
     
    In partnership,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • May 5: Head of School Update: Governor Murphy’s Announcement

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    As I am confident you all know by now, Governor Murphy announced yesterday that all public and independent schools in New Jersey will remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year. While this news is heartbreaking and disappointing for students, teachers and parents alike, it is the correct decision and puts the health, safety and well-being of our community at the center. 
     
    While the focus at this moment is to continue to provide high-level remote instruction for the remaining weeks of the school year, we are also looking ahead and preparing for 2020-21. Our team is working overtime to ensure that we are prepared for any and all possibilities for the fall and beyond. In the new reality we are all faced with, it is incumbent upon us to be prepared for both in-person and remote instruction in the future. Our teachers and administrators have done an incredible job in meeting the needs of our students to this point while being both responsive and reflective. I am confident that will continue as we work to finalize our plans for the fall. 
     
    This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and it has taken on so much additional meaning this year. First and foremost, the notes of support that have been sent directly to our faculty and posted onto the Wall of Gratitude have been uplifting and inspiring and I thank you all in advance for continuing to share those positive messages with our team. 
     
    Additionally, I want to take a moment to thank our parents who have stepped up in unimaginable ways to assist in the management of our students’ education while balancing their own jobs and other responsibilities at the same time. Never has the termhome-school partnership meant more. As we said in our grade/division level meetings over the last week, we are all in this together and we will all come out stronger on the other side as a result.  
     
    Thank you all for your continued support of our school and students. I look forward to a time when we can all gather again in person and celebrate our special kehillah.  
     
    In partnership,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • April 17: Updates and Continuation of Remote Instruction

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    I hope that everyone has enjoyed a wonderful holiday and a well-deserved spring break. Hopefully, the time off has enabled us all to take a breath and rejuvenate - if even ever so slightly given our current circumstances. Governor Murphy’s statement yesterday regarding NJ schools being closed through at least Friday, May 15 means that we will continue to be on Remote Instruction for at least four more weeks. 
     
    Breathe…
     
    While the natural reaction may be to feel slightly exasperated and overwhelmed, I do hope that we are all able to take a step back and recognize that our efforts — along with those of our family members, neighbors and friends — are going a long way towards flattening the curve and enabling us to get past this awful pandemic. As other states around us have made the difficult decision to shut down schools for the remainder of the school year, I appreciate that Governor Murphy is taking incremental steps in his decision-making process. Ultimately, we all share the same desire to get our students back to school safely and I remain hopeful that we can do that between now and June. 
     
    Looking ahead to the coming weeks of Remote Instruction, please note the following important updates/information:
     
    • Our faculty — who continue to be absolute superheroes! — will have the opportunity to access our campuses this week in order to retrieve additional materials to assist with their continued instruction.
     
    • Grade Level/Division Meetings — we recognize that there are questions regarding the coming weeks and our administrators and I will make ourselves available — through a schedule that we will publish next week —to meet and speak with all of you. While a more formal invite will go out that will include specific topics, we will discuss our continued remote instruction plan, upcoming milestone events and address concerns/questions you may have regarding the social-emotional health and well-being of your children. 
     
    • Retrieving materials from school — At this time, we are also exploring ways for families to retrieve additional materials, if necessary, from school. In order to do this safely and in accordance with state-mandated health guidelines, we will share information once it’s available. 
     
    As we continue to be physically distanced from one another, our communal connections grow stronger and I want to thank everyone again for their ongoing support of our school and students. While we remain uncertain as to when we will ultimately emerge from this crisis, I am confident that we will come out much stronger on the other side. In the meantime, I continue to send good thoughts for health and safety to our entire GOA community and all of your loved ones as well.
     
    Shabbat shalom,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
     
  • March 31, 2020: April 6th Programming and Looking Ahead to Pesach

    Tuesday, March 31, 2020
     
    Dear Golda Och Academy Community, 
     
    Joining together with hundreds of members of both our GOA and the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (Bryn Mawr, PA) community for Havdalah this past weekend was yet another reminder of the importance of creating special communal moments in these very physically distanced times. To see so many smiling faces illuminated by the havdalah candles flickering all over my computer screen was quite special and brought a greater sense of connectedness into our home. I hope that the same was true for all who participated as well. Our Jewish Life and Experiential Education team has done an excellent job creating meaningful programming that has enabled our community to be brought even closer together at this difficult time — I very much look forward to that continuing. 
     
    Our team has worked tirelessly to incorporate the feedback they are receiving into the ongoing changes that you have seen with our remote instruction plans, and I want to once again thank all of them — faculty and administrators alike — for diving in, head-first, to this process. At times it has been both stressful and anxiety provoking — especially given the other challenges we are facing. This process, however, has enabled our students to feel grounded and somewhat normal in these anything-but-normal times. 
     
    As we move into week 3 of Remote Instruction, I wanted to provide the following important updates/reminders:
     
    ·    Pesach is coming next week and recognizing the incredible uniqueness that these last few weeks have presented us with and the challenges we will all face in our preparations for the chag, we will be doing the following:
     
    ·    On Monday, April 6 we will not follow a regular remote instruction schedule. Instead, we are in the process of finalizing a special programming schedule that will be sent out later this week which will include pre-Pesach activities for students and parents to participate in on Monday. Please note that some of these will be live and others recorded. All will be open for Pre-K-12th grade students unless otherwise noted in the description. 
     
    ·    While Tuesday, April 7 had originally been scheduled as a noon dismissal on our school calendar, it will now be the first day of our Pesach break. Students will be able to use this time as review should they wish, however there will be no formal instruction during the morning.
     
    ·    We recognize that this break will be like none we’ve ever experienced. While it’s important that we all take this time to disconnect (as much as possible) and gear up for the last part of the school year, we do understand that many will still be looking to keep their children engaged. To that end, you will be receiving more information from the school (prior to break) with suggestions and recommendations from our faculty and staff on how students can remain enriched and engaged throughout the chag.
     
    ·    Our Jewish Life and Experiential Education team will be providing opportunities (for both parents and students) to virtually come together later this week and early next to discuss the complexities of Pesach this year and provide all of us with some guidance and creative thoughts and ideas for the sedarim (more details to follow).
     
    ·    We ask that everyone be respectful and mindful of the time needed for both preparation and celebration of the chag and thank you all in advance for refraining from contacting teachers over the break. 
     
    Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly over these past few weeks both setting up and executing our remote instruction plan. Many are putting in twice as much time (if not more) every day and I know that our entire GOA community joins me in thanking them for their efforts while also recognizing that they, too, need to prepare for Pesach. So many of you have shared positive praise for them and much of that has been incorporated into our Wall of Gratitude. Please know that we welcome more of these messages and look forward to this wall continuing to grow every day! 
     
    In my original email about our school closure on Thursday, March 12, I noted that it was our hope to return to school following Pesach on Monday, April 20. Our world has certainly gone through dramatic change since earlier this month and at this point the decision to return is very much out of our hands. We are still hopeful to return to school just after the break, and we will continue to take our guidance from both our state and federal officials on this matter. We will keep our GOA community posted as we learn more and will be in touch prior to the end of Pesach with an update on our post-break plans.
     
    I know that we are all eager to return to school, work and our normal lives on Gregory Avenue and Pleasant Valley Way and very much look forward to doing so once we can be sure it’s safe and prudent. In the meantime, I want to wish everyone in our community continued strength and good health as we continue to deal with our new reality.
     
    In partnership,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • March 20, 2020: Bringing Week 1 to a Close

    Friday, March 20, 2020
     
    Dear Golda Och Academy Community, 
     
    Our new (ab)normal is here and I am truly in awe of our community. Our teachers have stepped up in ways that none of them could have even imagined a few short weeks ago, our students have risen to the occasion while adjusting to new modalities of instruction and I know that our parents have been working hard to juggle their professional and personal lives amidst all this uncertainty. This is stressful and anxiety provoking and it goes without saying that none of us want to be in this position. 
     
    Alas, we are here, we have no choice in the matter and, most importantly, we are in this together. Over the course of the past four days, Golda Och Academy has gone “remote”and I am incredibly proud of our teachers. They have been reflective and responsive while making changes and adjustments on the fly. Your feedback has been invaluable as we’ve worked to strike the proper balance when it comes to the schedule, posting assignments and how to structure them. In the coming weeks you will continue to see updates and changes, increased opportunities for our students and teachers to interact with one another and an even more streamlined approach to remote instruction in certain age ranges (ie. early childhood, elementary, middle and high school). 
     
    As we look ahead to Shabbat, my request for our community is that we all take a moment to remember that Shabbat provides us with an opportunity to disconnect from the week that has passed and recharge for the week ahead. With that in mind, I ask that we all take a break from technology, emails and any other form of communication between now and Monday. All of us as individuals — parents, teachers and students alike — need this time to practice self-care. Please know that I have made the same request of our faculty and administration in asking them to hold off on responding to communications until next week.
     
    When Rena and I bless our children every Friday night we also pause to reflect on the week that has passed and share what we are grateful for. This week I am particularly grateful for everyone who has shared words of appreciation and admiration for GOA. If you have not yet had a chance to see (or add to) the Wall of Gratitude, I highly encourage you to do so. 
     
    Last but certainly not least, this past week’s Community Tefillah led by Rabbi Yolkut was incredibly special and I look forward to once again gathering our community together tomorrow for a joyous Virtual Havdalah Celebration (click here to join us via Zoom at 8 pm)led by Rabbi Yolkut and our Golden Ochtaves Choir Director, Mr. Craig Resmovits.  
     
    Shabbat shalom,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • March 16, 2020: Community Best Practices, Neshama Trip Returning, Managing Stress and Anxiety, Illness and Diagnosis Reporting Form

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,

    While we have labeled both Friday and Monday as “snow days,” this has been done in name only in order to signify that no formal learning would take place. These days, and the weeks to follow, are anything but normal and should not be treated, under any circumstance, as extended vacation/playdate days. The reason for our closing is not to lengthen our break, rather it has been done in an effort to “flatten the curve” and keep our community as healthy and safe as possible. Our success will be measured, simply put, by how serious everyone in our community — and extended community — adheres to these recommendations. It is our ultimate goal to return to school following Pesach and this will only happen if we all work hard to stay physically distanced and healthy throughout this time.

    Practically speaking, this means that sleepovers, playdates, parties and social gatherings simply should not take place. Parents, I know that your kids may request this time with their friends and will make it difficult for you to say no, unfortunately this is one of those moments when parenting becomes even more critical as you have to do just that. You’re being tasked with having your kids at home and separated from their peers which I know is counter to all that we want for our young people (and for ourselves!).

    In all of my reading over these past weeks, I have encountered a number of important articles and many are shared on our information about the coronavirus webpage. Earlier this week, I came across a particularly poignant article written by Dr. Gretchen Schmelzer, a licensed psychologist who trained as a Harvard Medical School Fellow, and worked for many years with the multi-layered issues of trauma, integration, and behavioral change. This article struck a chord as it lays out the true importance of taking this moment seriously. Dr. Schmelzer has challenged all of us to, “make our response to this crisis our finest hour.” To do so we need to be unified in our work and committed to even the smallest acts of kindness and pikuach nefesh (the halakhic principle that instructs us about the importance of saving a life over all else). While there is much to read and even more to do at this hectic time in our lives, I’d highly encourage all of you to take a few moments to read this article as I know it will further support and solidify the need for all of us to distance ourselves from one another - no matter how painful - for the greater good.

    I also wanted to take a moment in this email to provide some important updates and information to our community. Please read to the end and, as always, do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions.

    Important Information/Updates

    • Unfortunately, due to new Israeli governmental regulations that came through late Saturday night, we have had to make the difficult decision of bringing our Neshama students home. While we are sad that it’s come to this, we had to act in the best interests of our students and in an effort to keep them as safe as possible. They will be arriving back home early on Tuesday morning.

    • At this point, everyone has received communication from either Mrs. Siegel or Mr. Herskowitz and more specific, grade-level, emails have either already been sent (Upper School) or will be arriving in your inbox today (Lower School). I hope that you have noted the care, creativity and dedication that have gone into these communications. Our teachers are, in a word, awesome, and they are diving into this entire process head-first along with our students. We have no doubt that there may be bumps along the way and while we welcome the feedback, we also ask for everyone’s patience and support as we move into this new reality of remote instruction beginning on Tuesday.

    • One of the most important responsibilities we all have in the coming weeks is to manage stress and anxiety — both in ourselves and our children. There are many great resources posted on our coronavirus webpage and I direct your attention to this page on the CDC website which focuses on this topic and provides additional resources as well.

    • In an effort to keep track of our community during this extended physical absence from school, we ask that you complete this Coronavirus (COVID-19) Illness & Diagnosis Reporting Form if your child or a member of your immediate family tests positive for coronavirus. It goes without saying that we never want this form to be used, however, we must be prepared accordingly.
     
    We are all so blessed to be a part of the Golda Och Academy community. Of course, our strength comes from being together every day and as we separate from one another in the weeks ahead; I know it may prove difficult. It is my hope that we can instead turn this into an adventure. I’m certain it will have its ups and downs but am confident that it will ultimately be a growth opportunity for all of us. We encourage you to reach out and speak with and FaceTime one another. We must check in and see how friends and loved ones are doing. Our friendships and connections don’t end simply because we are not physically together; instead they evolve into something even more special.

    At this moment we need each other and while we can’t hop in the car and head to Gregory Avenue or Pleasant Valley Way, we can very much still be “together” as a community. These next few weeks will continue to present challenges and I am confident that we will face this together and come out even stronger on the other side.

    Praying for the health and safety of our entire GOA community,

    In partnership,

    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • March 16, 2020: US Remote Instruction Information

    US students and parents can reach our guide for Remote Instruction by logging into the GOA website, and going to Resource Boards.

    Use this Guide to see the schedule, expectations, Live with Mr. H., Tefillah , Research Resources, and Tech Support.

  • March 12, 2020: School Closed for Students

    As I said in my email yesterday, we have continued to monitor this situation on a minute-by-minute and hourly basis. Throughout these processes we have consulted both internally and externally, planned together as a leadership team and have worked hard to ensure we are making the best decisions possible. Ultimately, I am hopeful that everyone understands at this point that the question is no longer if, but rather when. Our team has been hard at work planning for the inevitable and I have dedicated the majority of my time over the last two weeks to considering all possible options. Above all, I am thankful that at this time we do not have any students, faculty or staff who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and it is very much our hope to keep it that way.

    Following extensive consultation, we have concluded that in order for us to effectively keep our community safe while rolling out our remote instruction plan, we need to begin that process now. We are fortunate that our students and teachers remain healthy at this time and also recognize that our community and country may be in a very different place by this time next week. If we are to effectively roll out this plan for remote instruction, it is far better to jump into that process from a place of calm and preparedness as opposed to doing so hastily.

    Beginning tomorrow, Friday, March 13, Golda Och Academy will be closed for our students through Pesach Break. Our return date is subject to change — either earlier or later — based on ongoing communications with health professionals and guidance from the State of NJ.

    Our faculty will be on campus tomorrow doing professional development work in order to ensure that they are fully ready to go with both synchronous and asynchronous instruction and that preparation will continue through Monday. I will be meeting both virtually (this evening) and tomorrow with our faculty and leadership team in order to further review our plans. Parents and students will learn more — between now and Monday from their teachers. At this point, it is our plan to begin remote instruction on Tuesday but that is subject to change as we work through all of the details internally.

    To be clear, both Friday and Monday will be treated as “snow days” for our students and there will be no remote instruction.

    During school today, as you are reading this email, we will be preparing our students on both campuses for an extended absence. In order to maintain calm within our student body, I ask you to please refrain from texting/calling your children during the school day. Both Mrs. Siegel and Mr. Herskowitz will be meeting with our students to further explain our remote instruction plans and will also be asking them to take whatever materials home that they need for learning.

    Please know that this is not a decision that we have arrived at lightly. While we are one small part of the overall ecosystem in this country, I feel strongly that we must do our part to socially distance ourselves from one another and help to slow the spread of this virus. I also know that this decision will put a tremendous burden on many of our families and I thank you all in advance for your help and diligence in keeping your family — and our entire community — safe and strong.

    We will continue to be in touch as this situation develops.

    In partnership,

    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • March 11, 2020: Policies Related to Programs, Trips, Athletics, and Travel


    The halls of both buildings were very much alive yesterday as we celebrated Purim here at GOA. For those who haven’t had a chance to see the wonderful images from the day, please click here for pictures. Once the month of Adar begins (which we celebrated at the end of February) it’s customary to say the phrase “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha” which translates to, “when the month of Adar arrives we should increase our joy!” While conversations about coronavirus have not exactly led us to a place of increasing our joy, I am incredibly grateful to our faculty, staff and students who were able to push this topic aside yesterday and create joyous moments together. 
     
    With the World Health Organization now declaring this coronavirus a pandemic, I wanted to provide another update to our community as part of our ongoing effort to keep everyone engaged and informed. We continue to follow the guidance of our local health department and information being conveyed from the State of New Jersey and encourage you to visit the Coronavirus Information page on our website for the most up-to-date information and resources. We continue to monitor this situation on a minute-by-minute and hourly basis as we weigh all of the potential next steps for our school and community. This includes planning for a possible school closure and a move to remote instruction — should the situation warrant and we be advised to do so — as well as the program adjustments and policy changes listed below.
     
    As we look ahead to the rest of the school year, I want to share more about our plans for upcoming programming, trips and athletics and also provide additional guidance as it relates to parent/family travel. We appreciate everyone understanding that we continue to operate and make decisions out of an abundance of caution in an effort to keep our students and faculty safe and healthy.
     
    School Programs and Trips
     
    Our team is currently assessing all programs and trips in both the short and long term. Between now and Pesach break, we are canceling all student field trips that take students away from GOA. Please note that student visits between campuses will continue as planned. Additionally, all programs and milestone events that welcome large groups of guests will be either canceled/postponed or reimagined as virtual experiences. Specific details for each of these will be shared out in advance by the program organizers. 
     
    Athletics
     
    With the spring sports season now underway, we are taking precautionary measures to minimize the spread of illness. To that end, our student-athletes will be reminded to wash their hands often and bring their own water bottles to practices and games. Our athletic facilities (gyms, locker rooms and weight room) and equipment will continue to receive a deep clean every day. We continue to encourage all student-athletes (and all students) to stay home if they are feeling ill in accordance with our school policies. 
     
    At this time, we hope to proceed with our entire spring season, uninterrupted. However, should it be necessary to cancel any of our upcoming sporting events, parents and athletes will be notified accordingly. Please also note that non-GOA fans will not be permitted to attend indoor (volleyball) matches this season. Should our opponents request the same of us, we ask that you comply. While we do not feel it necessary to impose the same regulation on those attending outdoor sporting events at this time, we reserve the right to adjust as needed. Should you have any specific questions about athletics, please reach out directly to our Director of Athletics, Mr. Dennis Kozar
     
    Parent/Family Travel
     
    We appreciate that many of our GOA parents travel as part of their jobs and that families may have travel plans booked in the weeks ahead. Out of an abundance of caution, we now ask that anyone (parent or household member) who has traveled in the past 30 days and/or has plans to travel between now and the end of the school year, please complete the following form GOA Parent Travel Information Form in order to submit this critical information to our school nurses. Should there be a need to restrict either parent/student access to our school, we thank you in advance for your compliance. 
     
    The above guidelines are in place, effective immediately, however this continues to be an ever-evolving situation. We are committed to staying in touch with you as often as necessary and to sharing updates accordingly. 
     
    In partnership,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • March 8, 2020: Jewish-Canadian Youth Model UN Attendees Return To School on Monday

    We wanted to close the loop following the email (update #2) that was sent to all of you on Thursday, March 5 regarding our Golda Och Academy students who traveled to Montreal as part of the Jewish-Canadian Youth Model UN Program. We have now received confirmation both from the leadership at SAR and from the Montreal Jewish Federation, that the two students in question from the SAR delegation at the Model UN have remained asymptomatic and are now at the end of their 14-day incubation period. As such, our students will be permitted to return to school tomorrow.

    We know that many of you have continued to follow the news closely and may have seen that SAR has extended their school closure through this week. Please note that this change was due to other factors separate from the Model UN program.

    Just as we have been, we will continue to monitor this situation closely and work with our local officials in order to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to keep our students and community safe. Towards that end, we have also established a GOA Coronavirus Taskforce comprised of medical and legal experts along with members of our Board of Trustees. This team will work closely with me in order to provide guidance and assistance as we navigate any further developments.
  • March 5, 2020: Jewish-Canadian Youth Model UN Attendees

    Dear Golda Och Academy Parents,

    Out of an overabundance of caution, and in an effort to be as transparent as possible when it comes to sharing news about our response to the coronavirus, I am passing along the email (below) that I received last night from Yair Szlak, CEO of the Montreal Jewish Federation. He sent the following message, a letter from Dr. Earl Rubin, the Head of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Montreal Children’s Hospital, following this past week's Jewish-Canadian Youth Model UN Competition that 20 of our high school students attended.

    As a result of the possible exposure to students from the SAR delegation, we will be following the guidance (below) and keeping our GOA Model UN delegation (students and teachers) out of school until Monday, March 9.

    We will continue to apprise our entire community of any new information and have set up a page on our website where all coronavirus-related updates and resources will be posted.

    In partnership,
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School

    --------------------

    From: Yair Szlak
    Sent: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 8:49 PM
    To: Yair Szlak
    Subject: Important Update on Students participating in the Jewish Canadian Youth Model UN Conference

    Good Evening,

    You are receiving this email because one or more student/s at your school participated in the Jewish Canadian Youth Model UN Conference between March 1st to 3rd, 2020. While Federation CJA does not run the Model UN Program, as it is completely a Student run program, we have been deeply implicated with ensuring that the appropriate recommendations are made and that the proper communication of the current situation takes place.

    This communication follows consultation with Federation CJA’s Ad-Hoc Committee on COVID-19 over the past few hours in order to come to the recommendations below.

    Late this afternoon, we were made aware that at least two participants from New York have come into contact with an individual that has tested positive for COVID-19.

    The following is important information regarding the situation from Dr. Earl Rubin. This is a recommended course of action for the Schools involved. As you understand, the situation with COVID-19 remains fluid and continues to evolve as the world comes to grips with dealing with the virus. Our recommendations are made based on the best information we have at this time.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    March 4, 2020
    Re: Model UN conference March 1-3, 2020

    Possible, but unlikely, exposure to Covid-19 (novel Coronavirus)

    Dear Heads of School,

    BOTTOM LINE: There is a possible exposure, albeit unlikely, that may have occurred at the Jewish Canadian Youth Model UN. Until we have further details, Federation CJA, in conjunction with Infectious Diseases at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (Dr. Earl Rubin), have recommended that the students, who attended the Model UN, not attend school until Monday March 9th at which point a further directive will follow.

    Details leading to this move are outlined below. All of the information is included for those that want all the details to best understand the rationale of the above

    FACTS:

    As you know, the Model UN conference took place in Montreal from March 1st to 3rd. 180 participants attended the conference, 94 of whom are from the following Montreal area schools: Bialik - 20 students, Hebrew Academy - 23 students, Herzliah - 16 students, Selwyn House - 1 student, and 34 local student leaders from CEGEP and university.

    As part of the 180 student delegation, there were 20 students from SAR High School in New York. Public Health New York has asked to close this school until Monday, March 9th as a possible exposure may have occurred there. The story, as we understand it, is as follows:

    A father of one of the SAR students is currently hospitalized with Covid-19. His family members are also infected, some are symptomatic and others are asymptomatic. No members of this family attended the Model UN.

    The working hypothesis is that the father was at a Bar Mitzvah on February 22nd and a funeral on February 23rd and may have exposed others to the infection there.

    The concern surrounds at least 2 Model UN participants who had contact with the patient during or following one of these events.

    The incubation period from contact to manifesting symptoms is up to 14 days (which would end March 8th), but the majority display symptoms between days 4-7. While incubating, and have no symptoms, the chance of transmission is thought to be unlikely. These 2 students would have been at the Model UN on days 7-10 after their contact. Both remain ASYMPTOMATIC. On a balance of probabilities, it is unlikely they are infected.

    RECOMMENDATION:

    We have discussed the situation with Public Health Montreal. They are NOT concerned, and their recommendation would be that no intervention is needed at this time. Therefore, Federation CJA will be reaching out to all schools with the recommendation that the Model UN students stay at home until Monday, March 9th. At that time the 14-day incubation period would have been completed, and if these 2 students from SAR High School remain well, they are NOT infected and do not pose any issue to the other students who attended the Model UN.

    Siblings of Model UN participant have only been in contact for the last 1-2 days. There is NO need to keep these siblings at home.

    We understand that these students did go to school today, but 1-3 days after an exposure to an asymptomatic person, they would NOT have symptoms, would NOT have a high enough viral burden to infect those around them. Therefore, today’s attendance is of no consequence.
     
    Federation CJA will stay on top of the situation, which is an ever evolving story, and will communicate with you before Monday morning with any and all updates. If the SAR students do display symptoms between now and Sunday, a further directive will follow.

    So, just to re-iterate, the risks are minimal if not negligible. But to alleviate concerns and questions, we thought it be best to err on the side of caution, and recommend that the Model UN students NOT attend school for the rest of the week.
    I apologize for the lengthy letter, but hope this is clear and clarifies the situation.

    Dr. Earl Rubin
    Division Head
    Pediatric Infectious Diseases
    Montreal Children’s Hospital
    _____________________________________________________
    Yair Szlak, B.A, LL.B
    Chef de la direction | Chief Executive Officer
    FEDERATION CJA
  • March 4, 2020: Preparing for Remote Learning, Mental Health and Well-Being

    As we all continue to follow the news, it is difficult not to be consumed and feel increased anxiety about coronavirus (COVID-19). While it’s impossible for me to allay your fears, I did want to send an update with information (beyond that which went out from Nurses Ilena and Roberta last week) in an effort to help you better understand what we are working on from the standpoint of emergency preparedness and the health and well-being of our community.

    First and foremost, it’s important that everyone heed the directives set forth by the CDC when it comes to preventative measures that each of us can and should take to stay healthy. In addition, our leadership team has taken the necessary steps - based on recommendations both from the CDC, local Department of Health and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) - to put emergency plans in place should there be a need to close our school for an extended period of time.

    In the event of such a closure, please know we will do all that we can to provide meaningful remote instruction for our students. This instruction will vary based on age and appropriate learning goals by subject. Should the need arise to put this plan in motion, specific plans will be forthcoming from Mrs. Siegel, Mr. Herskowitz and our teachers. In the meantime, we have put the following information together in order to guide you as you prepare for this potential alternate learning experience.

    Preparing for Remote Learning

    On the first two days of a potential extended closure, we would not hold classes (much like a snow day). These days would be used both to gather and disseminate information to our community and would also provide our faculty with the chance to spend time adjusting assignments and participating in a series of online meetings to fully ramp up for remote instruction.
    We would begin remote instruction on day 3 (and continue on subsequent days) which would include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

    Students in grades 5-11 should have access to a laptop, smartphone or other WiFi enabled device in order to fully participate in remote learning. We have upgraded our Google Suite for Students to include Google Meet (the professional version of Google Hangouts which is similar to Zoom). Students will have access to this simply by logging into their @goastudent.org account.

    We ask that all students have access to a printer and that you have sufficient paper and ink should assignments require printing. Additionally, access to a scanning application (there are multiple free versions that can be downloaded) may be necessary for submitting certain assignments.

    As always, our Acceptable Use Policy (which can be found in our Student Handbook) provides guidance for our students, and we ask that you reinforce this messaging with your children.

    Mental Health and Well-Being

    Based on the updated recommendations from the NJ Department of Health, our cleaning crew has increased their focus on sanitizing/disinfecting all surfaces, paying close attention to “high contact” surfaces such as doorknobs, desks and tabletops.

    By the end of the week, Nurses Ilena and Roberta will have spent time with all students reviewing proper hygiene as it relates to coughing and sneezing, refraining from touching one’s face and demonstrating effective hand washing techniques. They also reiterated the message that students should stay home if they are feeling ill.

    Our teachers and guidance team continue to monitor our students for signs of increased stress and anxiety. We ask that you do the same by checking in with your children and reaching out should you need our support. Additionally, please consider using the following resources when speaking with your children: Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring the New Coronavirus (NPR); How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus (New York Times)

    In order to do all we can to keep our school community healthy, we ask that all visitors to campus who have traveled outside of the country (or to a known hotspot for COVID-19) let either Nurse Ilena or Nurse Roberta know prior to coming to campus.

    The health and well-being of all members of our Golda Och Academy community are our highest priority. Our team, along with our Board of Trustees, will continue to monitor the recommendations coming from the CDC and our local officials and will update you accordingly.
  • February 27, 2020: Message from the Nurses

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,

    As you are likely aware, on Tuesday, February 25th, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gave a press conference updating the country on the status of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We wanted to share with you some of the steps our school is taking to prevent the spread of illness and plan for the possible spread of the coronavirus in our community.

    As the CDC emphasized, there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A pandemic occurs when a disease is spreading from a variety of sources across a large region, and the number of cases across the US is still small. However, given how quickly the global situation is evolving, we are monitoring new developments and will continue to reevaluate our steps and actions daily.

    In the meantime, the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease is to follow general flu prevention measures, including:

    • Cover your mouth with your sleeve when coughing and sneeze into a tissue or into your sleeve, not your hands.
    • Keep hands/fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. Use alcohol‐based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
    • Stay home from school and work if you are unwell.
    • Adhere to GOA exclusion policies: fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication before returning to work or school.
    • Avoid contact with sick people.
    • Flu vaccination for those not yet vaccinated.
    At this time, there are no recommendations for the cancellation of school or extracurricular events. These are extreme measures that can be disruptive to day-to-day life, and any decision to implement will be at the direction of public health experts. Our community is prepared to alter our procedures and planning should the situation change. We will communicate any changes clearly when the time is appropriate.

    For the most up-to-date information, we recommend that you refer to the CDC's website. Additionally, travel restrictions can be found here.

    For information specific to your child or family, please contact your healthcare provider.

    For all general inquiries about COVID-19, New Jersey has opened up a 24-Hour Public Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

    In times like this, we are particularly grateful for the support and understanding of our Golda Och Academy community. Please continue to look for further communications from us on this matter.

    In partnership,

    Nurse Ilena and Nurse Roberta

Preventing Illness

Public health officials recommend the following steps people should take to reduce their risk of getting and spreading any viral respiratory infections. These include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.