Kehilla School Will Be Primarily Virtual This Fall
Although many of the rhythms of our lives are different than usual, our team at Kehilla School is still looking forward to the fall and the beginning of another year of learning together. While we would love nothing more than to be together in person when our school year begins in September, unfortunately we don’t see a way to do that safely, given the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. For at least the fall semester, and as long as it remains the safest option, the core of our learning will take place online. This decision was made in consultation with public health professionals and is guided by our commitment to prioritizing our community’s wellbeing.
Our Plan for Kehilla School: Block Schedule, Small Classes, More Options
Thursday afternoons—As before, the heart of Kehilla School’s program will take place on Thursday afternoons between 4 and 6pm. Thursdays will be fully virtual in the fall and we are committed to having virtual options throughout the school year, even if it is safe for some of our classes to meet in person later in the year.
This year, we are offering a block structure where each class lasts 2-5 weeks. Some blocks will consist of elective courses for which the students will rank their preferences and other blocks will consist of core curriculum in grade level groups. During the first two weeks of our school year, our Thursday gatherings will only include tefilla, our communal time for prayer, songs, and stories, as teachers will spend their teaching time in 1:1 meetings with each of their students, saying hello and setting learning goals for the year.
Each grade level cohort will have a core teacher, who will check in with students 1:1 at the beginning and middle of the year, and teach essential grade level curriculum, as well as elective offerings. Students will also have the opportunity to learn with guest teachers, who will teach elective offerings in one or more blocks throughout the year. We are prioritizing small class sizes for the elective courses, which will run for varying lengths depending on the ages of students and the subject matter, though none will run later than 6pm. Look out for course offerings for our first elective block, themed around the High Holy Days, later this summer.
Home learning—Each block, we’ll share a packet of optional, screen-free activities that students can do at home, with varying degrees of parent support. We know that adult availability to engage with their children’s Jewish learning varies from household to household and our hope is to meet your family where you’re at. A packet may include activities such as making round challah for Rosh Hashanah, coloring in paper leaves for Sukkah decorations, or building an ark out of recycled materials.
Optional in-person small group learning—Our plan is to offer optional single session, small group, socially distant outdoor learning experiences throughout the school year. These experiences will be led by Kehilla School faculty and provide our students with the opportunity to come together in person for learning and community building at times other than Thursday afternoons.
While pandemic conditions, teacher availability, and weather will factor into what’s possible, our hope is to offer enough sign-up slots for students to join a few times a semester. A small group gathering could involve looking for acorns that we’ll keep until Passover in the spring and put on our seder plates to represent solidarity with Indigenous activism, or going to the Berkeley marina to play socially distanced games and learn about the practice of tashlich (throwing pebbles into the water to represent what we want to get rid of in the new Jewish year).
Here’s a preview of our block schedule for the year with sample courses and activities*:
*actual courses and activities offered may differ from those listed above
We Are Guided By Our Values
- Community—Regular meetings help facilitate the development of our community and foster growth and connection. It is important to us that Kehilla School meets without interruption, to the extent that it’s possible.
- Student-centered Learning & Smaller Class Sizes—We want to give our students as much choice as possible and offer as many learning modalities as we can, within the constraints of the current situation. We want to know what our students are excited to learn and offer them opportunities to connect with teachers in small groups and 1:1. We’ve learned that online classes go better with smaller groups of students, so we’ve designed our program to bring in more teachers and for students to learn in smaller groups.
- Accessibility—As a community, we are all responsible for each others’ wellbeing. For now, one way we can show our love for each other is by keeping our physical distance and remaining socially connected. We also know that some students have learning needs that make virtual education particularly challenging. This is also an access issue, and I encourage you to be in touch with me if you are concerned your child’s needs won’t be met by the plan below.
- Tikkun Olam—Kehilla School continues to be a place where our young people can explore issues of justice and share their feelings about what is going on in the world. We’re committed to support them in navigating and engaging with topics such as climate justice, uprisings for racial justice, and the upcoming elections.
More questions? Please contact:
Rabbi Gray Myrseth, Director of Youth Programs
Natalie Boskin, Youth Programs Coordinator