Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy
This has been a year like no other. I always knew that we had the best faculty, staff and students, but never did I realize how quickly everyone could come together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It began on the Wednesday before Governor Pritzker closed all of the school in the State. I never believed such a move was possible, but wanted to be ready just in case. On Wednesday, March 11th I asked our IT expert to push the Zoom app onto all of our students’ iPads. Thursday they noticed and were sure “something was up” – but it really wasn’t. Until I was on my way home, on Friday. I received a text that the Governor had closed down “your school,” and thought it was a prank. Then a few minutes later, ICJA past president, Dr. David Dobkin called and told me to watch the Governor on TV. I did, and “the rest is history.”
Before Shabbat I sent a note to all parents, and called for an all-school faculty meeting on Zoom for Sunday. Monday, we were in school learning the finer details of remote learning, and students came to pick up textbooks for a few weeks. Of course, things continued that way until the end of the academic year, but it was without compromise to learning the basics of what students needed to be ready for next school year.
We were going to be in-person, and together with a group of very talented medical and health professionals we designed a model on in-person instruction that took full advantage of our magnificent new building. Students could be socially distanced, everyone had to wear a mask, and teachers were limited to areas of the room where they could teach.
August we were at the forefront of schools with a plan and the flexibility to allow teachers and students to be in-person or remote. School started as scheduled, but with one-way hallways, new spaces for davening, lunches and even a remote grab and go cafeteria in the gym. None of this would have been possible without the dedication of our faculty, the flexibility of our students and families and the guidance of experts.
Since then, we have not missed a day of school Bli ayin hara. There have been no cases of student to student transmission of COVID, no classroom that has had to quarantine, and no opportunities missed to learn Torah and study maddah while remaining a place of inspiration and growth.
There are so many heroes at ICJA who continue to keep our school safe and open that to name a few would do a diservice to the many. But one thing is for certain, ICJA will emerge from this chapter in our history, stronger and more committed than ever before to be the place where we Bnei and Bnot Torah are inspired to engage the world and make it a better place!