Students return to SIA on Campus

September 4, 2020

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Strelitz International Academy students returned to the Sandler Family Campus for in-person learning on August 24. After almost six months away from their school and their friends, SIA students were clearly excited to be back.

It was a unique and busy summer as SIA prepared to return to Campus. Since March 13, when SIA went virtual, along with every school in Virginia, Heather Moore, head of school, was determined to open safely on August 24 as planned. It was important to open on time, she says, to be able to better meet the educational, social, emotional, and childcare needs of the Strelitz families.

As word spread that Strelitz was opening, the admissions department became flooded with inquiries. Many families who had been satisfied with their neighborhood public schools applied for admission. The International Baccalaureate Program, Jewish education and face-to-face learning, made the decision to switch an easy one for many families. By mid-summer, classes had waitlists.

Opening school safely during COVID-19 is not an easy task. It requires the implementation of many safety measures, including no parents or visitors on campus, mask wearing, social distancing, desk screens, and a daily health screening conducted by parents, along with student temperature checks during carpool drop off.

“Our COVID team began meeting in May to begin researching and planning a way to open school safely this fall,” says Moore. “The team met regularly and developed safety protocols and ordered equipment to ensure we could open. Once we had a plan in place, we opened summer childcare for early years on July 6 to help our families who had been in need of childcare for their little ones.”

During the planning stages, SIA created a COVID parent handbook to help everyone acclimate to the new rules that parents, faculty, and children would need to follow to maintain a safe environment.

A virtual meet and greet took place the Friday before classes started so that students could meet their teachers and see their classroom. Parents and students were grateful to be back on campus and didn’t seem to mind this unusual start.

On the first day of school, students were ready with their personal assortment of cute masks to express their style, parents were patient in the drop off line, and even the littlest learners were happy to be handed off to their teachers. The students have been resilient and the parents thrilled and grateful.

Jasmine Amitay, an SIA parent, wrote on SIA’s Facebook page, “Thank you for everything you did (and keep doing) to keep our kiddos safe! The boys had the best 1st day ever!”

SIA is creatively planning to gather virtually for parent and family events. Many SIA community highlights such as Shabbat Singalongs and parent coffees will not be possible this school year due to SIA’s safety protocols. The Parent Volunteer Committee has met virtually and is working on a schedule of virtual events for parents and families.

After five long months of being apart, SIA’s students are happy to be able to see their friends, learn with their classmates, and enjoy a normal routine. And, their parents are happy, too.

To learn more about the Strelitz International Academy, contact Carin Simon, admissions director, csimon@strelitzacademy.org or 757-424-4327.

This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.

- Carin Simon

Letter to the Editor