By Rabbi Boruch Perton, Head of School, Torah Day School of Ottawa
On March 15, Torah Day School of Ottawa (TDSO), notified parents that it was temporarily closing its doors due to COVID-19. Within 48 hours, TDSO switched to an e-learning model for all students from kindergarten to Grade 8 with tremendous success.
Parent appreciation is evident.
“Thank you so much for all you and the teachers have done. The kids are actually looking forward to starting at 9 am in the mornings and it is hard to get them outside to play right now! We are so grateful for all the support of the school and how flexible everyone has been in this new and challenging situation,” wrote a parent in response to a parent survey a week after the e-learning model was launched.
Also impressive was the student response with 82 per cent of students reporting a positive attitude to e-learning at home.
“So, blessed to have such incredible staff at TDSO,” wrote another parent. “The daily videos and Zoom meetings from the Judaic teachers have been wonderful and engaging, and motivating for my kids. It is new each day, and my kids look forward to it.”
On March 16, the school began to offer course work from all teachers for all grades. This new learning model was rolled out gradually, with fully online classes running the next week.
Every teacher shares online lessons which are emailed daily to students along with assignments to be emailed back. Teachers are using a variety of online learning strategies, including posting video lessons, having students record audio or video responses, and individually calling students at home and working with them one-on-one. For families with multiple children, the asynchronous online format allows families to determine which student is online and when, while others are reading, writing, or working on assignments. In addition, the school's 30-plus Google Chromebooks have been loaned to families with multiple children to assist families who need more technology at home.
Teachers are utilizing Zoom and Google Classroom along with FaceTime and email to create interactive and engaging ways for students to continue learning while the school is physically closed.
Even though schools may be physically closed, our school is a community and we are a family. We have a dedicated staff who are committed to our students and are working in non-traditional ways to ensure our students are able to continue learning, even though the physical building is closed. Our teachers and staff have been amazing at finding creative solutions to ensure our students are able to learn in the safety of their home.
As we head into the Passover break, our staff continue to be engaged with our students and working to provide lessons and support for the short and long-term. This commitment is on-going and unwavering.