March 13, 2020
17 Adar 5780

Dear Families, 

This morning we awoke to a new and uncertain time.  A multi-week period without school to attend is a daunting proposition for all of us.  As I write to you before Shabbat, I want to start from a place of gratitude and then share with you some logistical answers that we know for sure, some questions we are still working on, and answers about what our plans are for next week.  

Thank you to you, our community, for your support during these past few weeks. As many of you have noted to me, these are uncharted times and the decisions we have to make are unlike anything we have ever done before.  

I am grateful to the Board of Directors, lead by Karen Rosen and our Pandemic Preparedness Team, informed by Dr. Joshua Tepper, for their time and support over the last few days. Together we have begun to chart the course of  the next few weeks. I am also enormously grateful to the school administration and faculty for their ability to keep the level of normalcy high. We are all committed to a digital school experience that maximizes routine and amplifies our values as both a learning institution and a diverse, caring community.  

Our Opportunity
These uncharted times, and the challenges they bring, also create opportunity.  I am energized by digital tools I am seeing and the ways our faculty and students will learn to interact in new and  different ways. I am also optimistic that our Paul Penna DJDS community will find creative ways to deepen personal connections and build even stronger communities as we embrace social distancing.  

March 16-March 20
March 16 through March 20 will be our ramp up week. Monday March 16 and Tuesday March 17 will be PD Days, with faculty being trained in Zoom and other digital teaching technologies. 

How will the digital environment run? A few quick facts:
  • Our platform of choice is Zoom and we are putting everything in place to have Zoom classroom spaces up and running by Wednesday March 18th.  
  • Documents for SK, Grade 1 and 2 students will be in their respective Google Drives.  
  • Documents for Grade 3, 4, 5 and 6 students will be in their existing Google classrooms.
  • Some learning will be synchronous, meaning happening at the same time in the same digital place.
  • Some learning will be asynchronous, meaning loaded into a Google platform and accessible to students during set learning times or at a time that is convenient. 
In terms of timeline, you can expect the following:

On March 16 and 17 teachers will 
  • work to load their Google Drive documents in SK, Grade 1 and 2 and their Google Classrooms in Grade 3, 4, 5 and 6. 
  • begin to send recorded and email messages to students, as well as videos to help them learn about Zoom as the platform for gathering.  
  • Prepare and post asynchronous learning materials that you will be able to use immediately and throughout the duration of the digital learning experience. 
You can expect the learning schedule for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to be shared with you by end of day Monday. On Wednesday, March 18 we will transition into a digital school day. This will include a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning. 

Our intention is to keep a daily learning schedule. There will be set times for class gatherings and suggested times for asynchronous work. We are working with our full faculty now to ensure that core, Hebrew and Judaics learning continues daily and that specialties, such as French, art music and physical education have both a synchronous and asynchronous presence in the digital school environment. As we consider our values as a school we are ensuring Shabbat, daily prayer and opportunities for multigrade communities to gather also exists in this digital space. 

What will each student need to learn? 
A digital learning environment requires a digital learning tool. Please email Karen Goldstein in the school office if you need to borrow a school laptop. Karen will assign you a device and let you know the window for the chromebook distribution Tuesday morning. Priority in distributing laptops will go to our oldest students.  

If your child is using a personal device for digital learning, it is important that the device have a camera and microphone, and has Chrome and Zoom loaded onto it. On Monday we will communicate more specifically about setting up your home learning environment and the details of scheduling synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences. 

Materials From School
Today your child will bring home a package of learning materials. These are hard copy workbooks and packages that will be used over the coming weeks. This is not an exhaustive package of resources. The availability of digital programs, document loading systems and online learning tools and platforms will allow us to share many more resources and materials in the coming weeks. If you were not at school on Friday and therefore unable to pick up resources, they can be picked up Monday or Tuesday between 9:00 and 11:30 in the school office.  

Ongoing Communication
In the coming days you can expect to hear from me regularly. I will share more details about our digital learning plan. I will share more information on ways our community can stay connected, and I will send updates from our local community that are relevant for us.  Please also continue to follow us on social media. This is a wonderful way for us to share the opportunity that digital learning affords us, while reminiscing about Passovers in prior years and other wonderful things that have happened here at Paul Penna DJDS. 

I will also communicate about social distancing and some guidelines we should consider to ensure we keep our students, faculty and communities safe during these uncertain times.  

As I conclude this letter, I hear children playing in the courtyard and the sounds of Ma Nishtanah being sung in the Grade 1 classroom. I am optimistic that the tremendous energy of our children and faculty will make this a unique, memorable and special period in our educational history. Thank you to everyone in advance for your partnership and support.

Shabbat Shalom, 


Amy Platt, PhD

Principal and Head of School

Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School

750 Spadina Avenue  2nd Floor

Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J2

P: 416.928.3537

F: 416.533.7471




Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School

Inspiring Curiosity |Honouring Diversity|Creating Community