March 15, 2020
19 Adar 5780

Dear Families, 

This is long.  Please read it slowly and carefully. 
If you have not already heard, the MNjcc closed to the public at 7pm on Saturday March 14th and is tentatively scheduled to reopen on April 6th. This is one more step Toronto Public Health has taken to strongly encourage social distancing.  Our faculty will have limited access to the building on Monday and Tuesday to collect resources and be trained in online curriculum delivery tools and methods. We are working with the MNjcc to ensure we can get chromebooks and learning materials distributed to families who need them.  Please read below for more information on that. 

Social Distancing: What does it mean for us at Paul Penna DJDS 
There is a lot being written about social distancing right now and what it means for each family.  People are asking me about playdates, sizes of social groups and working on school assignments with a friend.  It is hard to find any hard and fast rules, but my reading of each article is to make decisions that feel comfortable, keep groups very small and stay away from camps and large gatherings.  At the same time, consider your mental health and try to spend time in nature and connecting with people in a way that honours social distance. 

How this plays out for each family will be up to them.  I am hopeful the resources we have curated will help you find answers to questions about how to remain social in a healthy way during this socially distant time.  

Wednesday March 18th at 8pm Dr. Joshua Tepper will be hosting a synchronous Zoom session for our school community.  Joshua will discuss the current situation with COVID-19 and why the measures we are taking are absolutely necessary.  The link for the meeting will be sent by Wednesday at noon. 

Please click here for a curated list of recent articles on social distancing 

Online Learning Structure 
On Friday I shared our initial plans for digital learning with you.  On Monday and Tuesday the teachers will be trained in how to use the Zoom digital meeting platform and best teaching practices in a digital space. We will also fine-tune the daily schedule and get it out to you by Monday night, ready to start on Wednesday.  

You can expect a learning schedule that begins at 9am and lasts until 3pm. All appropriate Zoom links will be in the daily schedule, sent to you and posted in the Google Classroom for students in grades 3-6.  Within the context of the day there will be multiple face to face learning blocks using Zoom, a snack break, a long lunch/ movement break and an asynchronous learning block. Teachers will be working to both lead Zoom classes and upload activities and assignments for asynchronous learning time.  Specialists will also create synchronous and asynchronous learning materials. I am excited for the weekly sing-a-longs with Moreh Mark, as well as Morah Michelle and Morah Marie's learning activities!
Each day will end with a community circle to keep our classes connected as we remain socially distant. I am confident our students will also use Zoom or Google Hangout for their own digital gatherings with friends. 

Some parents have asked how much help or supervision they will need to give their child.  The truth is, it really depends on your child. Some students will need more help with independent work and some students will be able to follow along with very little direction from home.  Teachers, Associate Teachers, and Pauline will be available throughout the asynchronous learning block to meet for brief times with single or small groups of students to help them complete work.   

Teachers will work hard to communicate to students and parents the expectations for the week and make learning and assigned work very clear.  We are also open to feedback and plan to iterate as we move through this.  

Lesson Planning and Teaching Blocks 
Each teacher will be responsible for leading multiple synchronous learning blocks in a week.  A synchronous learning block might be a standard lesson or it might be a daily tefillah or weekly Kabbalat Shabbat. Your child will see the teachers they are used to multiple times a week.  Each synchronous learning block will be planned just as a classroom lesson. It is important, perhaps now more than ever, that each lesson have a clear goal, instructional component and an individual work component. Your children  can expect this in their lessons. The individual work will be uploaded in advance of the lesson and if anything needs to be printed, students will know ahead of time. Students will need to check email and their Google Classroom space before the start of each learning day to make sure they are prepared with the materials they need. 

We will do our best to continue morning routines through our Zoom environments and encourage morning work.  Morning work booklets that were sent home can be done independently before the start of the day or during asynchronous learning block time. In older grades, teachers will set the expectations for morning work and will make it clear where the work is posted. 

Attendance, Accountability, Assessment and Homework
We are still working out the details of attendance.  We hope Zoom can help with that. We are hopeful that all students and families will be accountable for the work that is assigned to them and the time they are expected to be "in class".  As the next few days unfold, we will create some procedures for attendance and absences and communicate them with you. 

Regular class homework routines will continue.  

What will each student need to learn? 
A digital learning environment requires a digital learning tool. This can include a desktop, chromebook, ipad or laptop.  Please email Karen Goldstein in the school office if you need to borrow a school chromebook. 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.  When you come to pick up your laptop you will need to call the school office and we will bring the laptop downstairs to you. 

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
Your child brought home a package of learning materials on Friday. 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 were therefore unable to pick up resources, they can be picked up Tuesday between 9:00 and 12:00pm in the lobby of the MNjcc .  Please check with your classroom teacher to make sure there are materials to go home. 

Parent Teacher Interviews 
We will continue with interviews as planned on March 26th and 27th.  March 26th there will only be planned online learning in the morning.  All interviews will be conducted over Zoom at the time you are scheduled.  All information about links will be sent out next week.  

PA Lunch Program  
Robin Sims is working with the vendors to secure refunds for hot lunches.  Consider continuing to support kosher restaurants and food providers through the next number of weeks.

Ongoing Communication
There is a lot of information to share.  After our faculty training day tomorrow, you can expect to receive the online learning schedule.  On Tuesday you can expect an email from your child's teachers or teaching team outlining the specifics for that class. 

Connecting with me and other members of the administrative team
Please don't hesitate to reach out.  This is a new learning experience for all of us.  Thus far your questions have helped us refine our thinking about a digital learning environment. I can be reached by email and will be making Zoom meetings with any member of the school community who wants to drop in and say hi, or have a more substantial conversation. 

Thank you for partnering with me and the school during this unprecedented time. 


Amy and the Paul Penna DJDS Administrative Team

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