Coronavirus Update – August 12, 2021

Update from August 12, 2021

Dear JCDSRI Families,

JCDSRI’s COVID Task Force is pleased to share with you our detailed, carefully considered plan for in-person learning (click here or see attached). We encourage you to read it closely. The document includes information about masking, vaccinations, outdoor classrooms, and protocols around visitors in the building.
We want to assure you that dedication to our 5 values and our mission – as well as concern for the safety and well-being of our students, families, and faculty and staff – have informed all of the Task Force’s decisions. As the public health situation evolves and the state provides new guidance, we will adjust accordingly and will keep you updated.
In addition to sharing our written plan with you, we hope you will join us for our JCDSRI COVID “Town Hall” Zoom Meeting on August 19 at 7:30 pm. I am grateful that some of our Task Force Members will be joining us. We ask that you submit all questions before the Town Meetings on this Google form. This will allow us to answer as many questions as possible during our time together.
A gentle reminder that we will be requiring every student to take a COVID-19 PCR test and share the results with the JCDSRI front office before the beginning of school on September 1. Your child may be tested for COVID between August 26 and August 30 (results generally take anywhere from 24-48 hours); testing may not occur before August 26. Here is the link for information about testing in RI. 
Thank you again for your support and trust. We are blessed to have such an exceptional parent community. I look forward to speaking with you on August 19. If you would like to speak with a representative of the Task Force about an urgent issue before the Town Hall, please contact our Chair, Mara Ostro. If you have an urgent question for our Board of Trustees, please contact Shoshana Jacob, Board President.
If you have questions about our Family Handbook, forms, or any other beginning-of-school concerns, feel free to reach out to your children’s teachers or to our wonderful administrative support staff: Donna Baer and/or Meredith Friedman.

With gratitude and affection,
Andrea Katzman


Marking One Year

Dear Friends,
I am filled with complex emotions today. I hold both the tremendous gratitude that accompanies our 112th consecutive day of in-person learning since we opened our doors this fall and the sadness and turmoil felt a year ago today when we were forced to close the school due to the COVID pandemic.
In the weeks and months that followed that Friday announcement, we experienced tremendous loss and loneliness. Yet, this time apart also served to amplify our individual and communal strengths. I watched with awe as our remarkable educators dedicated themselves to creating an on-line school practically overnight while also juggling the pressures of caring for their own families; celebrated with our students as they embraced every opportunity to connect with their teachers and friends on-line while engaging in meaningful learning; and was inspired by our families, who met every challenge and setback with grace and generosity, consistently prioritizing their own children’s well-being over all else. And then, on September 8 of this year, our classrooms were once again filled with children and every day since, our joy has increased.
Through it all, our school’s foundational values of kavod (respect), chesed (kindness), achrayut (responsibility), and kehillah (community) have served as our guides. For that – and for the fact that we have had the opportunity to teach our students in-person while so many others have not had that privilege – I will be endlessly grateful. I am also aware that challenges still await us; this pandemic is still not over and we will be contending with its consequences for years to come.
Yet, I hold on to hope. The Hebrew word for hope – tikvah – has the same roots as the word for cord (kavah). And like the strands in a cord, hope binds us to each other, to our obligations, and to our future. Hope reminds us that our strength rests on our capacity to care for each other and to do the righteous work of building a better world for our children.
So on this momentous day, I thank you, I honor you, and I bless you with strength.
“May we be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened – hazak, hazak, ve-nithazek.”
Shabbat Shalom,
Andrea Katzman
Head of School


Update from November 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families,
I want to again thank you for your commitment to adhering to our COVID19 guidelines. It is only because of your support and commitment that our doors are still open and we are so grateful for that.

Like you, however, we are alarmed by the sudden rise of COVID cases and are aware that we seem to be just weeks away from our hospitals reaching their full capacity (see Dr. Forman talk about the growing crisis in this powerful video). Despite schools being safe spaces for children, we know that we are not immune from community spread – especially when it becomes out of control. We are asking that everyone in our community redouble their efforts and follow the following guidelines in the hopes that we can continue in-person learning at JCDSRI and protect our friends and neighbors (please review the points carefully, as there are some important new additions):

  • Travel information: The Governor has asked that families do not travel over Thanksgiving. If you must travel outside of RI overnight, we require that you inform Eileen Ellis of your travel plans (including dates and destination) as soon as possible. 

  • Quarantine requirements: Upon return from a state where positivity is 5% or above or from any international travel, a 14 day quarantine is strongly recommended. However after the fourth day of quarantine has been completed (at a minimum), a PCR test may be taken and – with confirmation of a negative result and no symptoms of COVID19 – the student can return to school.

  • Hosting visitors: If you are hosting a family member or friend from a state where positivity is 5% or above, the same restrictions as above must be followed. 

  • Testing sites: For students, sites can be found here. Testing information for parents and other household members who are not students can be found here.  Testing results must be submitted to Eileen Eillis before a student may return to school.

  • Symptoms & testing: Please note that if someone in your household has symptoms and needs to take a COVID test, everyone (including siblings) must quarantine pending test results.

  • Questions: If you have any additional questions about our COVID19 policies, please reach out to Eileen Ellis or call (401)-751-2470.

As we continue to watch community cases rise, we cannot overstate the importance of following all guidelines, including  not taking your mask off around people with whom you do not live and socially distancing when possible – even when spending time with others within your child’s bayit

Thank you for your ongoing support. Only because of your cautious and thoughtful partnership has our school been able to continue to keep students, families, and teachers healthy and our learning in-person. 

Wishing you all a Shabbat filled with peace, health and joy,

Andrea Katzman

Head of School

Update from October 16, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families,

Just last week, our students learned that during the holiday of Sukkot we are to be happy:  v’samachta b’hagecha, ושמחת בחגך the Torah instructs – you shall be joyful in your festival. We are to fulfill this commandment by spending the holiday studying, eating, and celebrating in the company of others. What are we to understand from this?

We need each other in order to fully rejoice.

That has never been more evident than now as we complete our sixth week of full, in-person learning. Reaching this point seemed almost unimaginable while we were planning over the summer. And while I am acutely aware that we will face future challenges related to the pandemic, today I invite you to join me in celebrating this significant milestone.

We have only been able to open our doors because every member of our beloved JCDSRI community has risen to meet the difficulties before us. I am deeply grateful to our courageous faculty and staff, who never wavered, no matter the risks, in their desire to guide and love your children in person. They are truly heroes.

Yet it is because of YOU – our families – that all this is possible. Your willingness to do whatever it takes to keep our community safe has been extraordinary. Despite the disruption it may have caused, you kept your children home for minor illnesses, waited patiently for delayed test results, cancelled trips and family gatherings – all to ensure that we stay healthy and our doors stay open.

I know I speak on behalf of our entire faculty and staff when I say we treasure your trust and support. Without your partnership, not only would our capacity to care and teach your children be diminished, so would our joy. I will never be able to adequately thank you.

May we all continue our commitment to keeping our community safe, healthy, and together. 

Wishing you a sweet and joyful Shabbat,

Andrea Katzman 

Head of School


Update from August 31, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families,

A few minutes ago, Governor Raimondo announced that public schools in Providence will be opening according to a “Partial In-Person Learning Scenario.” In addition, the Governor cleared all private schools in Rhode Island to open “Full In-Person.” According to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and Department of Health (RIDOH), both scenarios require that students maintain stable groups of no more than 30. Please note that all our classes are under 15 students, so we easily can adhere to RIDE and RIDOH’s reopening requirements. 

As a result, JCDSRI will be able to fully reopen on September 8.

I will be meeting with our Task Force this evening to review our reopening plans; any additional information will be shared with you by the end of the week.

With much anticipation and excitement,

Andrea Katzman

Head of School


Update from August 17, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families:

As I shared with you last week, Governor Raimondo decided to delay opening public schools until September 14. Over the past few days, I have met with Commissioner Infante-Green and representatives from RIDE (RI Department of Education), other independent schools leaders, members of our Task Force, and members of our Board of Directors in order to ascertain how we can ensure a healthy and stable beginning to our year in light of this new information. After extensive discussions, I have want to share with you our plans:

While JCDSRI is prepared for a full in-person opening, we are postponing the first day of school. JCDSRI will begin on Tuesday, September 8 (after Labor Day) and we will extend the school year until Wednesday, June 16, 2021. We do so with the following variables in mind:

  1. According to the Governor’s protocols in her Rhode Island Playbook for COVID Response and our Task Force recommendations, adequate testing with fast turnaround that allows for a rapid response to new cases is necessary for schools to reopen. According to RIDOH, testing capability is ramping up for September, but has not yet achieved a level that would give us confidence that we could keep our community safe. (See our monitoring of the Rhode Island Reopening Metrics Status.)

  2. The Governor does not plan to provide an updated plan for RI school reopening until August 31 (a delay from August 17). We cannot open responsibly without this guidance from the Governor’s office and the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) and we require time to respond to any potential new guidance and/or requirements. 

Unless – in the new guidelines (of August 31) – the Governor and RIDOH orders all Rhode Island schools to implement distance learning, we look forward to beginning our school year in-person, and full time, on September 8.

I know that there have been changing expectations in regards to school over the last few months – and I also recognize that this may not be the final change. In spite of the uncertainty, all of us at JCDSRI have been working tirelessly to plan for a stable, loving, and meaningful educational experience for your children this year – and we cannot wait to begin!

Wishing you all the best – 

Andrea Katzman

Head of School


Update from August 12, 2020

Dear Families,

A few minutes ago, Governor Raimondo announced that she will be delaying the opening of public schools until September 14. It is still not entirely clear how this will impact private schools. In addition, she will also be postponing her decision in regards to how all schools will open (whether it be full in-person, partial learning, or distance learning) until August 31.

Over the next few days, I have numerous meetings planned with other private school Heads of School, with representatives from RIDE, and with our Task Force, during which I hope to receive more concrete information. We will let you know our decision about our start date by the end of next week, and I hope earlier than that. 

Please be assured that your children will experience a meaningful and joyful beginning to their school year, whether we start on September 2 or the 14. In addition, we believe our carefully crafted reopening plan will allow us to begin in person; that said, we ultimately will need to await the Governor’s announcement on August 31 before we will know if that is possible.

I know that the changing expectations in regards to school over the last few months has been difficult on you and your children and I am so sorry to – once again – burden you with more uncertainty. Please be assured that all of us at JCDSRI are committed to creating as stable, loving, and connected educational experience for your children as possible.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. I will be in touch as soon as I have more information to share.

Best – Andrea



Update from July 31, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families,

I know I speak for the entire JCDSRI faculty and staff when I say we cannot wait to begin school on September 2! Whether you are a returning family or new to our community, we are excited to greet you and begin a year filled with learning and growth. We are a little over four weeks away from our first day of school, and I want to take this opportunity to update you on our reopening progress, invite you to engage in further conversation, and ask for your support.

JCDSRI’s ReOpening Task Force – with input from families, faculty, staff, and in close coordination with state and local authorities, public health officials, and our Board of Directors –  has developed a detailed, carefully considered plan for an in-person reopening that is 5 full days a week. Dedication to our mission – as well as concern for the safety and well-being of our students, families, and faculty and staff – have informed all of the Task Force’s decisions. As the public health situation evolves and the state provides new guidance, we will adjust accordingly and will keep you updated. Please see the Together Again: Reopening JCDSRI – Fall 2020 PDF here for full details, including information on partial in-person and distance learning, should additional options become necessary this year.

I want to offer my profound thanks to our Task Force members, Dr. Nathan Beraha, Rebecca Kislak, Dr. Lesley Landau, Mara Ostro, Jill Davis, Erika Rusley, Harshita Lakhiani, and Anthony Bucci, for their wisdom, expertise and focus. Their work reflects current medical recommendations, as well as a commitment to our school’s 4 values and to p’kuach nefesh (protecting human life). I am grateful that the Task Force members will continue to provide us with guidance throughout the year, ensuring that we can ably respond to any challenges we might face.

I also want to thank you, our exceptional parents, for your feedback, support, and trust. At JCDSRI, we believe that children learn best with and from each other in a caring community; we also know that when educators and parents work in close partnership, children thrive. I look forward to collaborating with you this year as we create the very best learning environment for your children. 

JCDSRI has the advantages of small class sizes, supportive families, and a deeply committed faculty and staff. As a result, we anticipate that in-person learning will resume in September and that we will continue to keep our students in school for extended periods of time. While we are thankful to have the opportunity to plan for an in-person beginning to our year, I also recognize that this start of school might bring with it conflicting emotions for many of us – anxiety and apprehension, as well as anticipation and relief.  I have those feelings, too. I am aware that we will be faced with the unexpected, yet I remain confident that our community is uniquely situated to respond flexibly, thoughtfully, and generously to the moment. 

The Task Force has indicated that in order for us to resume in-person learning, our entire community must work together to uphold standards of behavior and public health best practices that support wellness. We believe that we must take responsibility not only for ourselves, but for the health and safety of our neighbors, friends, and strangers. In order for us to return to in-person learning, we require a commitment from everyone in the JCDSRI community to review and follow our safety protocols. Included in our Together Again: Reopening JCDSRI – Fall 2020 are ways you can help us mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 in our school and in our state. We request that families stay up-to-date on Rhode Island health guidelines and follow them outside of school as well as at JCDSRI. Every adult in the school community needs to take responsibility for their family’s health in the interest of keeping everyone in our community safe.

Finally, I look forward to seeing you at one of our JCDSRI ReOpening “Town Hall” Zoom Meetings for parents & caregivers. Our Task Force Members will be joining me to discuss our reopening plans with you.

In addition, Meghan Cavanaugh and I will be holding a special JCDSRI student “Town Hall Meeting” on Wednesday, August 12 during which your children will be able to ask questions about our reopening plans.

We ask that you submit all questions before the Town Meetings on this Google form. This will allow us to answer as many questions as possible during our time together; please also indicate which town hall meeting you will be attending. 

I know that – with your help – we can successfully implement a sound reopening plan that retains our nurturing, joyous, and meaningful learning environment. I look forward to speaking with you on August 6 or August 10. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the summer!

Sending gratitude and affection you way – and wishing you a sweet, happy, and peaceful Shabbat,


Head of School