Shalhevet to delay decision on reopening in-person school until after Pesach, Rabbi Segal says

Meanwhile, California superintendent says public schools will probably remain closed for the rest of the school year


BP Photo by Eli Weiss

UNCERTAIN: A sign at Canfield Elementary School in Beverlywood was an ironic reminder on Tuesday, when state School Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced all state public schools would remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 year.

Shalhevet officials will defer a decision on whether to reopen on-campus school this year until after Passover,  Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal said this week, adding that if things haven’t changed by then, “in all likelihood,” online-only classes would continue until the end of May.

Asked whether Shalhevet would follow the lead of California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who told school district superintendents Tuesday that the state’s schools would likely stay online-only for the rest of the school year, he said no — at least for now.

“We’re holding off until we see how the social distancing works,” Rabbi Segal told The Boiling Point Tuesday evening. “We want to wait at least until post-Pesach and we see what the recommendation is at that time.”

If after Pesach the situation remained the same, he said, Shalhevet will make an announcement that the school will delay re-opening until the end of April. Pesach begins Apr. 8 and ends Apr. 16.

“Once we delay until end of April,” he said, “we’ll see — in all likelihood it may go to the end of May.”

Classes officially wrap up on June 5.

Mr. Thurmond made his announcement in a letter to superintendents that was obtained by various news sources including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Mercury News, and POLITICO.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Superintendent Thurmond wrote. “This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.”

Rabbi Segal said Shalhevet was taking a different approach.

“In some ways it would be easier to just say we’re following what the superintendent said and we’re not gonna have school until the end of year,” said Rabbi Segal.

But while the state needs to plan for dates further away, he said, Shalhevet would like to take it “chunk by chunk.”

For example, although it is unlikely, there may be new developments that would warrant an on-campus school opening.

“There may be a vaccine, there may be testing, there may be new protocol, there may be enough masks and ventilators and the fear — please God — will be diminished,” Rabbi Segal said. “I don’t know.”

But he said that it would take a major shift in the spread of the virus in order for a decision to re-open the school to be made.

Superintendent Thurmond wrote that distance learning creates hardships for California students, families, and educators and that the state Department of Education would help school districts through resources like webinars and training. He said the department was working with “leaders in technology and the philanthropic sector to help expand home devices and internet access where possible.”

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The full text of Superintendent Thurmond’s letter and original letterhead is below. You can access the original PDF of the letter here.