Principals host Zoom call for parents on coronavirus updates


screenshot by Eva Bard

CESJDS parents were sent the above email to join a virtual conversation on upcoming steps for the school in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Eva Bard, Arts and Entertainment Editor

CESJDS principals held a school-wide Zoom call for 300 JDS parents from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. The meeting addressed questions and concerns raised by parents about the future of the school year during the pandemic. 

High School Principal and Associate Head of School Dr. Marc Lindner began the call by addressing the unlikeliness that JDS students will return to school on March 30 as they had planned originally and that there was no definitive answer as to when or if school will resume this year. The only certainty on the calendar is that Passover break will be observed as planned. 

The call then allowed time for each principal to answer questions parents had submitted in a survey sent out on Friday and ended with principals addressing some new questions brought forward in the chat feature of the call, as all participants were muted upon joining the call. 

Both Middle School Principal Dr. Eliana Lipsky and Lindner shared that they are working on a new schedule that will be implemented the week of March 30 to give students more consistency and increase live learning sessions with teachers. Dr. Lindner believes that the current office hours are not sufficient and the system does not work logistically because of overlap in the schedule. However, the new schedule will also take in account teachers with children at home, who have less flexibility in their day. 

Kimberly Hasenberg, parent of sophomore Ellie and eighth-grader Benny Hasenberg feels that these online calls with teachers should be mandatory because not all students will willingly “opt-in.” Hasenberg also thinks it would be ideal to add more structure to the day by having live classes from nine to one, followed by regular homework and assigned books or documentaries, which students would be held accountable for.

In addition to increased live educational sessions, the principals said that there will be more interaction within the community. Dr. Lindner expressed interest in creating discussions with alumni and a virtual challah bake, and the middle school will offer two tefilla options and is working on creating a virtual recess, as well as ways to honor B’nai Mitzvot. The lower school is going to organize virtual read-alouds where students can listen to teachers read books.

Many junior parents also expressed concern about the college admission process and standardized testing in the survey, which was addressed with the reassurance by Dr. Lindner that the college counselors were “prepared and ready” to provide guidance for students as they would have otherwise, just virtually. While many decisions about tests and admissions will come from the College Board, the college counseling department will be ready to adapt when these decisions are released. 

The principals also emphasized that they are striving to get every student the help they need during this time of change. Education specialists are working one-on-one with students to check-in on assignments and guidance counselors have been reaching out to address stress load and management. 

Dr. Lipsky also shared that the eighth grade trip to Atlanta will be canceled because of health risks, even if students are back at school. However, the eighth-grade graduation will occur at the same date and time as planned, even if that means it happens virtually. 

Throughout the Zoom call, parents used the Zoom chat to express questions, gratitude and disagreements with the administration. The parent body stood divided in its idea of what distance learning should look like, but many parents were able to unite over their appreciation for the school’s quick response to the closure, especially in comparison to the lack of action from the public schools. 

The Zoom call had an unintended limit of 300 participants, so some families were unable to join. However, the call was recorded and posted on the JDS website, and there are additional calls scheduled with each individual principal throughout the week. 

“They are trying really hard to get it right,” Hasenberg said. “I think they recognize that they haven’t gotten it right yet and they’re working to get there.”