COVID-19, enrollment and Jewish day schools

As of this writing, the uncertainty hovering over the re-opening of schools significantly complicates families’ abilities to plan their lives. What form will learning take on the first Tuesday after Labour Day? In-class? Zoom? Hybrid?

In keeping with the conservative-evidence-based-science-protect-human-life-first philosophy that has characterized Ontario’s approach to contending with the virus, there are increasing signs that health officials may allow some form of modified, physically distant, in-class learning in September. No official governmental or school announcements has been made yet.

By sad comparison, the debate about the return to school is raging in the United States, much like the impact there of the virus itself.

Two instructive articles about the effect of COVID-19 on day schools in the U.S. appeared recently. They command our attention.

Emily Benedek, an experienced freelance journalist, wrote an article that appeared in Tablet, entitled, “COVID-19 Is Imperiling The Jewish Day School.” She traces the economic impact of the pandemic upon families’ abilities to enroll their children in day school.

Perhaps in partial response to Benedek’s article that appeared the week prior, Ben Harris, an experienced journalist with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, authored “Are Families Fleeing Jewish Day Schools? Far From It, But It’s Complicated.” Harris writes about the effect on day school enrollment of an in-country migratory phenomenon unfolding in the US as a result of the pandemic. Some families are moving from large metropolitan centres to smaller ones, seeking some form of refuge from the virus as well as day schools in which they can enroll their children.

The situation and experience described by Benedek will be more familiar to GTA parents than those described by Harris. Nevertheless, they are both worthwhile reading.

Especially worthwhile and even powerful is a statement by Benedek in the course of her research: “The day-school accomplishment is deep, preparing students to be fluent in their ancient tradition and qualified for admission to elite colleges.”

Her observation resonates with the beliefs of all day school parents irrespective of locale.


Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom


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