From a potential epidemic of swine flu to the upcoming G-20 Summit, area day schools are busy meeting challenges and seizing the unique opportunities afforded in Pittsburgh this fall.
Community Day School, Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh are all taking proactive measures to prevent a swine flu outbreak at their respective schools.
Both CDS and Hillel have forwarded information from the Center for Disease Control to teachers and the families of their students, and are planning programs in school to educate the children on how to minimize the spread of germs. They are also placing hand sanitizers throughout their buildings.
“We decided to be proactive and get this in motion right away,” said Rabbi Avrumi Sacks, Hillel’s principal and educational director. “We are also developing policies about when teachers and children should stay home, according to CDC guidelines.”
CDS, in partnership with the Squirrel Hill Health Center, will also offer standard flu vaccine to its staff, said Avi Baran Munro, head of school.
At Yeshiva Schools, the staff is getting direction from the United Jewish Federation in terms of flu prevention protocol, said Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, dean of the school.
“We are telling our teachers to be especially watchful,” Rosenfeld said.
Also on the minds of day school administrators this fall is the upcoming G-20 Summit.
While, so far, all three day schools have no plans to be closed during the summit, that could change.
“If security is an issue, we’ll close,” said Baran Munro.
Although all 66 of the Pittsburgh Public Schools will be closed for the summit, Baran Munro said CDS would not necessarily follow their lead. Instead, she said that CDS would confer with various Jewish organizations, the Pittsburgh Consortium of Independent Schools, and both Hillel and Yeshiva, before making a decision.
Hillel is “evaluating the various options available to us,” said Adam Reinherz, director of student affairs at Hillel, about deciding to close for the summit. “Whatever decision we choose to reach will be made in the best interests of our students, staff and families.”
All three day schools are anxious to take advantage of the learning opportunities afforded by having the summit in Pittsburgh this year.
“In some of our classes, we will be educating the children on what we’re doing in our own backyard,” said Rosenfeld.
CDS is planning to add the G-20 to its curriculum this year.
At Hillel, much of the programming in the upcoming weeks will be focused upon the G-20, said Reinherz.
“We are allocating classroom time to simulating the experiences of the G-20 members,” he said, “inviting in speakers to address both global and local implications of the G-20 Summit, and accompanying students to the nearby G-20 Student Summit.”
The G-20 Student Summit, presented by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, will be held at Fox Chapel High School one week before the actual summit, and will include a panel discussion session with speakers on economic development, energy and the environment, and breakout sessions representing all G-20 members.
Enrollment is stable at all three day schools, although the effects of the sluggish economy have not gone unnoticed.
“There has been a strain on all our donors, and our budget is suffering,” said Rosenfeld. “And it is affecting the ability or inability of people to pay tuition.
“But we don’t turn anyone down, and we won’t, that’s our policy,” he added. “Every Jewish child will get a Jewish education, regardless of their ability to pay.”
Despite the economic climate, the schools are nonetheless adding new features to their curriculum, and keeping up with educational advances.
CDS, for instance, has added “Dance Dance Revolution,” a music video exercise game, to its physical fitness program. It has also added a sixth SMART Board, and has expanded its library curriculum to include a focus on technology.
Hillel has increased its ability to effectively communicate “within and without the school,” by installing telephones and the Internet in every room, said Sacks.
And both CDS and Yeshiva have added an emphasis on differentiated instruction. CDS uses it, Baran Munro said, to train teachers to “respect the abilities of all children.”
At Yeshiva, the differentiated instruction will mean “each child will be taught at their level within the same classroom,” said Rosenfeld.
“Our overall goal is thinking about every child and addressing the needs of every child,” Rosenfeld said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)