2020-2021 School Year FAQs
What is the general reopening plan for Talmud Torah?
Talmud Torah will begin the 2020-2021 school year with distant learning for all classes. Between now and the end of our Thanksgiving break on November 29th, we will continue to evaluate the data that is provided by health experts and, when needed, adjust our plans accordingly.
What data and considerations guided Talmud Torah’s plan?
In evaluating our choices, we carefully considered Governor Walz’s recent Safe Learning Plan guidelines for the potential safe reopening of schools, in which he spoke passionately about three principles that informed a “localized, data-driven approach” to a learning model that make the most sense for each community:
The safety, health, and well-being of students, staff, and families
Data-driven decisions based upon science and research
Empowering local schools to make the best decisions for their own students
So, what makes the most sense for Talmud Torah?
It is clear from the continuous stream of data we all daily receive, that we are still experiencing sustained and increasing levels of newly-diagnosed COVID-19 cases, especially in Hennepin County. Even if we choose to rely only on the governor’s suggested metric of new cases per 10,000 across 14 days, the numbers suggest that the pandemic is far from over, for they have more than doubled over the last two months and continue to trend upward.
I have included two recently-published articles for your perusal—one from USA Today and the other from KFF—that explore the intersection of data and research regarding children and the transmission of COVID-19. They suggest that young people who are infected with COVID-19 are more likely to be asymptomatic and less likely to experience severe disease, which means that most children who are or will become contagious will never will be tested, and will not be included among the statistics of confirmed COVID-19 cases. This, coupled with the fact that children have viral loads and shed virus in similar amounts to adults, suggests that reopening schools could increase risks to both students and adults, especially in places that are already experiencing increased community transmission.
Who are we as a school community, and what do we strive to achieve?
Talmud Torah is a supplementary program, offering extension, enrichment and support, which brings Jewish students together from across the Twin Cities
We offer focused, limited, interactive hours to provide our students with Jewish content and experiences that complement their secular studies
We strive to create an environment for our students that is continuous and structured, especially in the unpredictable world of the pandemic
We aspire to bring our students and their families together to support their connections to each other as they create community
And, what are our parents’ views about the educational model they would like to see during the pandemic? To be sure, we received thoughtful feedback from many of you in response to our Distance Learning Survey, and as a result, we adapted and implemented many changes to our virtual program.
More recently, some parents have reached out to say that they are not in favor of face-to-face instruction for their children, and instead, wish to have their children continue to learn through distance learning. Others have indicated that distance learning is challenging for their children (and for them), and that it would not be their ideal choice. We are acutely aware that parents are coping with a tremendous amount of stress—work, school, figuring out family schedules, who is going where, who is doing what, and when and how it’s all going to get done. Regardless of parents’ preferred option, the main concern expressed by all was first, the safety of their children, and second, their desire for their children to have authentic Jewish experiences, in what they learn and through the community they create with their friends at Talmud Torah.
And, what are our faculty and staff’s views about the educational model they would like to see during the pandemic? Like our parents, they expressed a variety of opinions and concerns. Though they are passionately committed to the growth of their students and to facilitating meaningful, face-to-face experiences, they too expressed deep concern for the safety of all of the members of our community—their students, their families and themselves. With the understanding that our reopening could include a variety of educational delivery options, throughout the summer our teachers have diligently prepared (with professional development opportunities that have focused on distance learning tools of engagement), and are dedicated to providing our students with continuity and content in a safe environment.
The recurring refrain continues to be pikuach nefesh—the preservation of life! This principle of Jewish law tells us that the opportunity to save lives overrides virtually all other considerations within our tradition.
If Talmud Torah returns to any in-person learning, will distance learning remain an option?
What factors will be taken into consideration for Talmud Torah to return to in-person learning?
This is dependent upon several moving pieces, with health and safety being the number one consideration. Beyond that, we have technology, room configuration and sanitization logistics, as well as ensuring we have the appropriate staff available to teach in person.
How have teachers and staff worked over the summer to ensure distance learning is a successful endeavor?
· The class schedules have been modified to fit a slightly more compact timeframe and to incorporate new activities that can be done asynchronously.
Will all students from each grade be grouped into one Zoom session, or will there continue to be two “homerooms” in most grade levels?
For several reasons, we will assign our Sunday/Wednesday lower school (grades 2-5) students into two homerooms. Logistically, each grade level utilizes the specialized skills of a Hebrew teacher along with a Judaics teacher. As done last spring, the students will log into Zoom using one link and be welcomed by their homeroom teacher. During their break, they remain logged in and are automatically switched, via Zoom breakout room technology, to their other teacher.
When will families find out who their child’s Talmud Torah “homeroom” teacher and classmates will be?
This information typically is shared with families shortly before the school year begins. We know that Talmud Torah enrollment shifts slightly leading up to the first day of school and it is best to have one, consistent rollout of classrooms and classmates shortly once we know enrollment is finalized.
If a family wants to switch the days their child(ren) had originally signed up for, can that still be done?
Yes. Please submit any requests for schedule changes as soon as possible to email@example.com or call 952-381-3300. Timely schedule change requests are imperative to ensure we have adequate levels of staffing for each classroom and time to accommodate requests.
What individual accommodations will be made to help children achieve success?
· We can provide additional devices for our students’ use if they are needed for them to participate in our classes.
Will tuition rates change as a result of the pandemic or Talmud Torah’s delivery model?
We have worked hard to keep tuition flat for the past five years. The cost to operate Talmud Torah distance learning is no less expensive than our traditional model, and tuition continues to make up just a fraction of our total operating costs. For those reasons, we are unable to lower tuition this year. However, as always, no student will be turned away from Talmud Torah due to financial needs. If you need financial support, please apply for financial aid as soon as possible.
How do you plan to welcome new and returning families?
We aspire to bring our students and their families together to support their CONNECTIONS to each other and create COMMUNITY. While we are disappointed that we are unable to have an in-person, back-to-school picnic for our incoming 2nd grade families, our Family Connections committee is planning alternative welcoming community activities for all new and returning families. We will let you know more as soon as details are available. The Family Connections committee is dedicated to working year-round to provide opportunities for students and parents to build relationships.
If a parent has a specific interest in helping or contributing their time and talents to Talmud Torah this year, who should they contact?
We have existing committees in Education, Family Connections, Finance, Fundraising, and Marketing/Communications. Now more than ever, we encourage and need the involvement of parents and other community members. Please contact Maggie Blehert (firstname.lastname@example.org), Board President, if you would like to make a difference in this way. We’d love and welcome your participation!
Can I still register for Talmud Torah?
Absolutely! You can learn more and register here.