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6th grade Letter

Dear Middle School Families,     


Our 6th Grade Transition evening seems a long time ago… we remain, nevertheless, excited to soon be welcoming your child into the Maimonides Upper School (MUS). As we look ahead to the 2018.19 school year, the upper school faculty and staff have been busy planning and preparing for a new school year that will be full of Possibilities, Purpose and Challenges. We hope you find this letter informative and helpful as your family also prepares for the transition into the 6th Grade, and for an outstanding 2018.19 school year at SDJA!   


The middle school years are a dynamic time for growth and exploration. In the SDJA Middle School, we aim to provide a robust program that supports this unique time in your child’s life. Below you will find a series of explanations for the various programs that make up the educational process in the middle school. Additionally, we have added logistical information like important dates and calendars.


SDJA Calendar and MUS Daily Schedules

All upper school students’ daily routine is framed by a rotating A/B block schedule. The A/B block format contains four 75 minute academic periods per day. A student’s eight academic classes are divided into A day and B day so each class meets every other day. The rotating aspect means, for example, that if your child has Math class during the 1A  period that class will only be held in the first period of the day once every five class meetings. If your child has English class during 4B period, that class will meet during the last academic period of the day once every five days.

Why do we rotate the class periods? After a thorough vetting of research and benchmarking, we feel that rotating the periods through the day accomplishes two major goals we have so our students can maximize their learning experience in the upper school. By rotating the class periods, students will enjoy a variation in their day by not having the same class meeting time every day. This eliminates the routine of having the same class early every morning and late in the afternoon.  This also has the added benefit of alleviating missing the same class due to early dismissals for co-curricular activities Some psychological research posits that in the middle school cohort, a sense of adventure is established through the variation and thus helps alleviate boredom and routine.

The daily schedule and the rotation schedule will be explained fully to your child on Orientation Day and Lions Day, and in their Homeroom class which, as you will see from the Daily Schedule, meets at the start of the day every morning other than Tuesday.  We typically find that it takes surprisingly very little time for your child to become accustomed to the A/B Day rotating schedule, and with all the middle school classes centered around the Middle School Quad area next to the Moadon, it doesn’t take long for any slip ups to be quickly attended to.

The 2018.19 School Year Calendar
The 2018.19 A/B Rotation Schedule 
The 2018.19 MUS Daily Schedule

Important dates to note
*August 17, 8:30am: New Parent Breakfast Reception and Tour- MUS Office
*August 17, 8:45am: Middle School New Student Orientation – Ulam
*August 20, First Day of School (Lions Day) – Breakfast provided by the PTO   after the Opening Assembly and BBQ lunch provided

*August 29: 6th Grade Bridge Day (a day devoted to the transition to Middle School, for all 6th Grade students)
*August 30, 6:30 pm : MUS Middle School Back To School Night

*October 14th – 19th: 6th Grade Field Trip to Yosemite

Lions Day

The very first day of the school year, Lions Day, is an exciting and vibrant way to start off the school year.  The day will be a great introduction to the Upper School, with a number of assemblies and presentations as well as the opportunity for students to meet all their teachers (both “A” Day and “B” Day teachers).  


The day will also include a Middle School Sports Assembly to talk through the middle school sports opportunities and to hand out students’ PE uniforms. Lockers will be distributed to the students and time will be given for them to start to organize their books and lockers.  As a result, by the end of the day, we see that they start to feel comfortable moving around the MUS campus and navigating among each of their classes.


6th Grade “Bridge Day”

On Wednesday, August 29th, we will dedicate the entire school day to 6th Grade students, with the specific purpose of ensuring that they have the tools and strategies to navigate their school day, understand the general expectations around technology, the learning management system, google, and campus familiarity.


Student Supplies and Textbooks

Student schedules will be emailed before the MUS office closes on June 29th. Please use the course titles on those schedules to purchase supplies and textbooks for your students’ classes.


If you have questions regarding the schedule, please contact Annie Watt at awatt@sdja.com after August 1st, when staff return to the Upper School office.


Please click here for a comprehensive list of required supplies and textbooks.


While www.amazon.com and www.bn.com are certainly reliable vendors of texts, families are free to shop ISBN numbers to determine the most convenient and economical way of acquiring books. As you place your orders, please make sure to buy only those books whose ISBN numbers are published on the link listed above and to order required titles with those exact ISBN numbers; and please make sure to account for shipping time when making your purchases so items arrive before school begins.


The upper school is a “bring your own laptop” school (BYOL). The scope and technical requirements for the MUS BYOL program can be found by clicking here.



All SDJA MUS students have their school email account through Google (firstname.lastname@sdjaschool.com). For all e-communication with the school, students will use their @sdjaschool.com address. If you child has not received or activated his or her @sdjaschool.com account, please contact Chris Hill – chill@sdja.com.


Students in Grades 6 – 8 are not permitted to use their cell phones during the school day.  We believe cell phone usage is a serious distraction to the academic and social growth at a very important time in this age group’s development. We are asking you to partner with us and help establish the most positive and dynamic environment for learning and social opportunities for your child by discussing this policy with your child prior to the first day of school.  We understand that sometimes you will need to contact your child during the school day. In this event, please contact the front desk at 858-704-3790 and we will pass on a message to your child. Similarly, if your child needs to speak with you during the day, he or she will be able to do so from the front desk telephone. Please see the student parent handbook for more information regarding acceptable technology use and social media.  


Learning Management System

MUS uses a web-based learning management system or LMS called Canvas. Every teacher in the MUS maintains a page through this system for each course your child is enrolled in. The LMS is used to communicate news, homework, course descriptions, course resources, and progress reports.

6th grade students and parents will receive an access code and setup instructions. All students will use their @sdjaschool.com email account for the LMS and we ask parents to use your most frequently checked email address to set up a parent Canvas account.  If you experience problems with your Canvas account, please email Chris Hill at chill@sdja.com.

Every Middle School student spends time in a “Pod” period during Period 4A. Pod is a dedicated time block for SDJA students to work directly with their teachers on coursework, complete homework assignments, and learn and practice skills, like self-advocacy and time management, that are vital to academic success at SDJA and beyond.  

Students are required to “check in” with their advisor, who will take attendance and help students plan their time for the Pod period.



Our Experiential and Character Education, and Social Emotional Learning program (known as EXCSEL) offers guided lessons which are supplementary and complementary to our Advisory program.  It provides Experiential hands-on learning opportunities in Character Education and Social Emotional development.

With an ever increasing need for middle school students to be exposed to stimulating hands-on learning, this program aims to enhance our students’ academic and social skills in a non-traditional classroom setting. The program covers hands-on experiments, challenges, day and overnight field trips, group work, service learning and further character education and social skills development at this very important age.

Nicole Trotta, our Director of Experiential Learning is the Lead Teacher for EXCSEL, working with the Guidance counselor, the Dean of Students, and external professional organizations.



Click here to view an information video on the EXCSEL program:

Field Trip- Yosemite

In October, the 6th Grade will embark on an exciting, educational program provided by Nature Bridge at Yosemite National Park.  Students will explore Yosemite Valley with professional guides and participate in some of Yosemite’s most popular activities: hiking, geology, ecology, and team building. They will learn about the natural history of Yosemite, and it is our hope they will develop a love of wilderness whereby their roles as “Shomrei Adamah” or “Guardians of the Earth” can be realized.

Please click herefor specific details, sign up and payment for the trip. Click here for the participant agreement – both will need to be submitted.


Designed with the students in mind, our Advisory program is a robust aspect of our Middle School curriculum, but found outside their academic class periods.  

Students are grouped with approximately 10-14 students and meet with their advisor and group on a daily basis (at the start of the day and at other planned times). The goal of advisory is to establish relationships between students and with the advisor, create empathy, and develop social and life skills. We also collaborate closely with Sarah Greenstein, our Guidance Counselor.

Specifically, our advisory program includes, but is not limited to, character education, academic guidance (helping with strategies, identifying students who might be needing extra help), personal guidance (e.g. problem-solving with any relationship difficulties or social situations), and advisory group activities (includes academic, social, life skills and group bonding activities). Students spend much of their time during advisory engaging in discussions, reflection, and activities in all these different areas.


Your child will meet his or her Advisor briefly during Orientation Day and Lions Day.


Fall MUS Athletics / PE for Middle School

As a middle school student, your child has the opportunity to represent SDJA as a member of an interscholastic athletic team. SDJA, along with 15 other independent and small public schools compete in the South Coast Middle School League.


Athletic Director Stefanie Hill will send out a separate email to all parents of middle school students. The email will include the opportunities available for your child and details regarding the process for getting your child signed up and cleared for participation in middle school team sports.  


Middle School Student Government

The Middle School Student Government is made up of one 8th grade President and a representative from each grade in the Middle School. Elected by their peers, these students act as the voice of their grade and represent the Middle School as a whole. With guidance from the High School Student Government and Carol Ann Chambers, the Middle School Activities Coordinator, the Middle School Student Government organizes social activities that occur throughout the school year and provides input into Middle School assemblies.


Middle School Activities

Throughout the year, there are several Middle School activities that provide opportunities for social interaction outside of school hours. Organized by the Middle School Student Government with the diverse interests of the Middle School student body in mind, these events foster Middle School and grade-level bonding.


Middle School Clubs

Middle School students have the opportunity to propose and run their own clubs (in collaboration with a Middle School teacher advisor). In the past, clubs have ranged from Tikkun Olam to Ultimate Frisbee and Moot Beit Din.


Middle School Book Fair

Our annual Middle School Book Fair helps to engage Middle School students as active readers and establishes a community of readers within the Middle School. This will take place for four days in November, and Humanities teachers will help students identify age-appropriate books to purchase.   


Have a question?  

Below is a list of MUS faculty members who are responsible for various aspects of your child’s MUS experience. If a question arises, please contact the person listed below who has responsibility for leading the program.


Academic Advising and Program – Dean of Academics, Steve Kahn, skahn@sdja.com

Academic Schedules, Annie Watt, awatt@sdja.com

Advisory – Dean of Students, Anna Falkiewicz, afalkiewicz@sdja.com

Athletics / Physical Education – Director of Athletics, Stefanie Hill, shill@sdja.com

EXCSEL – Director of Experiential Learning,  Nicole Trotta, ntrotta@sdja.com

Middle School Activities (Student Government, Middle School Activities), cchambers@sdja.com   

Reflective Practice  – Judaic Studies Chairperson, Jeremy Toren, jtoren@sdja.com

Pod – Advisor or Dean of Academics, Steve Kahn, skahn@sdja.com

Social Emotional/Guidance Counselor, Sarah Greenstein. sgreenstein@sdja.com

Student Life – Assistant Head of the Upper School for Student Life and Inclusion, Anna Falkiewicz, afalkiewicz@sdja.com

Yosemite Field Trip Coordinator, Nicole Trotta, ntrotta@sdja.com

Summer Hours

The MUS office is closed in July; office staff will return on August 1st. Faculty members will return to campus August 13th. For now: l’hitraot (see you soon), and we hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful summer!



Michael Quigley                          

Head of the Upper School


Anna Falkiewicz

Assistant Head of the Upper School for Student Life and Inclusion


Steve Kahn

Dean of Academics


Jeremy Toren

Director of Judaic Studies and Jewish Life

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