Students Being Physically in School Fulfills Basic Needs
Responding to Covid-19’s effects on schools, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the National Education Association (NEA) jointly stated:
“We recognize that children learn best when physically present in the classroom. But children get much more than academics at school. They also learn social and emotional skills at school, get healthy meals and exercise, mental health support and other services that cannot be easily replicated online.”
Additionally, children being present in school is often necessary for parents to work and pay for basic expenses. As such, while safety must come first and Cincinnati Hebrew Day School needed to switch several classes to an online platform, CHDS’ goal is to provide students with as much in-person learning as safely possible.
A Delicate Balance
In July, Cincinnati Hebrew Day School recognized that it would need outside help navigating between safety and providing optimal in-person instruction. Mrs. Heather Waters, who had worked as an infection preventionist at Children’s Hospital and has been active in the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, was therefore recruited to serve as CHDS’ Covid-19 consultant. Mrs. Hudie Shichtman, PA-C, commented “I feel comfortable knowing our school consults regularly with someone who possesses such relevant clinical and academic expertise in infectious disease and epidemiology.”
On the Front Line
While Mrs. Heather Waters provides guidance, the CHDS school nurse, Mrs. Penina Braunstein, is the CHDS Covid-19 vanguard. Mrs. Braunstein credentials for this position include work in the Allergy and Immunology department at Children’s Hospital and in the ICU at Beth Israel in New York. Initially, both CHDS and Mrs. Braunstein assumed that Covid-19 would be a small part of her work; this assumption was quickly dispelled. Mrs. Braunstein feels her career has given her the necessary background to do her part in keeping the school safe and students in their physical classrooms.
Officially, Mrs. Braunstein leads the CHDS Covid-19 Outbreak Mitigation Team and is the school’s point of contact for the Hamilton County Health Department. Additionally, as a medical professional, Mrs. Braunstein is the one who consults with Mrs. Waters when questions arise, and also, occasionally, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, the chief of infectious diseases and the hospital epidemiologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. Grateful to serve the community directly, Mrs. Braunstein has become a de facto address for many about anything Covid-19 related, and she answers questions with professionalism and a smile. We are all likewise grateful for her critical contribution to safety and education.
Remote When Necessary
While CHDS aims to keep students in school as much as possible, the school and teachers were ready when the need arose to switch to remote learning. Preparations took the form of additional professional development for virtual teaching and practicing using specific technologies. While classes were online, many parents were able to view class and expressed their admiration for teachers’ patience and ability to handle curve balls. Dr. Mordechai Levin remarked “As a parent and a medical doctor, I have been very impressed and satisfied with the way CHDS has handled the hard task of running a school well during Covid-19 times. They have found the ideal balance between safety and maximizing education and, when necessary, have done a great job with virtual classes as well.” Still, all are excited when, G-d willing, all students will return to optimal, in-person learning. That is the school’s goal.