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San Diego Jewish Academy Shifts Rapidly to Meet Needs of Students and Families

March 24, 2020

San Diego Jewish Academy Shifts Rapidly to Meet Needs of Students and Families
Faculty, students, and parents work together to adapt to distance learning and new ways of coming together

San Diego, CA – As all of California moved to “shelter-in-place last week,” San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA), a K-12 school with an Early Childhood Center (ECC), rapidly adapted to deliver educational and school-wide “gatherings” over digital platforms.

“Our faculty and teachers from Kindergarten on through 12th grade are well-equipped and deeply committed to continuing the learning for students —they just do it now through digital platforms,” says Chaim Heller, Head of School at SDJA. “Through a combination of classes with all students in real-time, online meetings, and one-on-one check-ins and lesson planning, we’re charging ahead with both learning and care for each other as top priorities. Our parents have been absolutely phenomenal supporting us and their children in this transition.”

The rhythm and look of distance learning take many shapes and forms. Preschool parents receive art projects and hands-on activities to do with their children. Lower grade students participate in whole class sessions and small breakout sessions with teachers and classmates via Zoom meetings to continue with curriculum, from general studies and Judaica to specials classes and more. Middle and upper school students participate in full class sessions online while continuing to work independently on research projects and other ongoing course work. For all students, SDJA offers resources to increase mindfulness practices at this time, focusing on health and well-being.

“This is an adjustment for everyone, but SDJA really is empowering our children to learn from home and to continue growing under challenging circumstances,” says Jessica Fink, an SDJA parent with children in grades 2 and 4, “The school is helping parents gain confidence and understanding with all of these new ways of learning. For us, feeling knowledgeable and able to support our children is so critical and helps us maintain some sense of normalcy.”

“My family and I have been so impressed with the commitment and dedication of the SDJA administration, faculty and staff in helping our entire school adapt to these unprecedented circumstances,” adds Fink, “not just by providing truly quality online educational experiences for our children, but also by continuing the sense of community and togetherness that makes SDJA such a special place.”

SDJA teachers and students are accustomed to digital learning experiences in part because of the school’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking (CIET), which offers cutting edge education and support on campus during normal operations. The CIET now serves as an especially important resource.

“One key to making distance learning and community building effective is giving teachers and students a basic level of understanding and comfort with this approach to learning,” adds Kwaku Aning, head of the CIET. “None of this is one-size-fits-all. But we want our students and families to be equipped to succeed in the future; based upon the past few days, it feels like distance learning and working remotely will be a part of that.”

SDJA parents and students are accustomed to school-wide weekly Shabbat gatherings and other events to strengthen community and to inspire families.  SDJA is intent on not losing that integral part of the SDJA experience.

“Our communal gatherings are actually needed now more than ever,” adds Heller. “So it’s up to us to adapt those gatherings to be online and to continue to be as meaningful and impactful as ever. We’re all in this together and we’ll gain strength from each other.”


San Diego Jewish Academy, a K-12 community Jewish day school with an early childhood center, pursues its mission committed to Academic Excellence, Social Responsibility and Active Jewish Living.