After delay, in-person school to start tomorrow with one grade at a time instead of two

On-campus students to stay all day, with General Studies on Zoom viewable with ‘cohorts’ in tents


BP Photo by Ellie Orlanski

NAMES: New tents set up to accommodate in-person outdoor learning are named after the patriarchs and matriarchs. Tents Sarah and Abraham are on the third-floor patio; tents Leah, Yaakov, and Rachel are on the turf; and tents Yitzchak and Rivka are in the parking lot.

By Benjamin Gamson, News Editor

Thirteen days after Shalhevet unexpectedly “paused” a planned reopening of on-campus Judaic Studies classes, the administration announced Friday that students would return to campus after all — but only one grade per day, and beginning this Tuesday.

The previous plan would have had two grades at a time coming to school for mornings only, in a week-on, week-off pattern. Now, students will come just one grade at a time for an entire day, attending Judaic Studies classes in person and Zooming into their General Studies classes on those days from outdoors. 

Our initial plan was to welcome 50% of our students to campus at a time,” stated the email, which was signed by Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal, Associate Head of School Rabbi David Block, Principal Mr. Daniel Weslow, and Chief Operating Officer Ms. Sarah Emerson. 

Our new model will welcome each grade back to campus for one day a week (thus limiting the total number of students on campus at any one time).”

The difference means that instead of 120 students on campus at a time, the maximum will be about 60. There are 241 students enrolled at Shalhevet this year across four grades.

Camp Firehawks will remain open for evening co-curriculars after school, the email said, this week from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Breakfast will also be served for students who are on campus, and this week a pizza lunch will be served as well. 

Each grade’s day would change every week, since not all Judaic classes meet every day and they want each student’s Judaic classes to meet in person at least sometimes, said the email, which was sent to parents the morning after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Noam Drazin, president of Shalhevet’s board and a member of the school’s Medical Task Force, said that the administration was trying to not only get kids back to in-person instruction but also to increase their social interaction.

The point of going to only one grade per day was having some compromise between no [in-person] learning and some, and limiting the number of kids on campus so that we have a better ability to track cases.

— Dr. Noam Drazin, Shalhevet board president

“The point of going to only one grade per day was having some compromise between no [in-person] learning and some, and limiting the number of kids on campus so that we have a better ability to track cases,” Dr. Drazin said.

When reopening was delayed on Nov. 17, he said that the surge in Los Angeles Covid cases made bringing students back to campus unwise. But the new plan gets around that problem by reducing the in-person presence by another 50%, with only one grade at a time instead of two, he said yesterday.

Also, nearby high schools YULA Girls and YULA Boys have already been meeting in person for Judaic Studies, he said, and Shalhevet paid attention to their results. 

“They’ve been in in-person learning outside for a couple weeks now without any cases,” said Dr. Drazin. He said their model was two grades at a time. 

YULA Boys has been meeting on campus for Judaics since Nov. 11 and YULA Girls has been on campus for Judaics since Nov. 16. 

“And even they, neither of those schools have had any outbreaks,” Dr. Drazin said. “So we see it as a nice model to follow in our own special way, which is a kind of a compromise to make sure we are safe.”


For this week only, Monday will still be on Zoom; 12th-graders will be on campus on Tuesday; 11th-graders on Wednesday, 10th-graders on Thursday, and ninth-graders on Friday. 

Students are being “invited” to remain on campus and Zoom into their General Studies classes. Judaic and General Studies classes are intertwined in students’ schedules; for example, a student could have a first-period class which is Judaic and not have another Judaic class or in-person class until the end of the day. 

“Instead of coming in only for Judaic Studies, students will be invited to spend the full school day on campus,” Friday’s email stated. “Judaic Studies will take place in-person in outdoor classroom spaces, and students will be assigned outdoor classroom space (in cohorts) to Zoom into their General Studies classes.”  

In a message sent directly to students, Rabbi Block said he wished there could have been more notice for the change. 

“Ideally, we’d give a bunch of time before opening up in order to properly hear you out before restarting,” Rabbi Block wrote the Just Community group on Schoology.

“But here’s a major concern. Factors (numbers, spread, guidelines) change every day, and we don’t want to miss our opportunity to get our foot in the door of in-person learning.”

Factors (numbers, spread, guidelines) change every day, and we don’t want to miss our opportunity to get our foot in the door of in-person learning.

— Schoology post from Rabbi David Block, Associate Head of School

Rabbi Block said the master schedule that was posted after Sukkot would mostly remain the same, although some blocks’ times will change. Also, Friday classes have been shortened to 30 minutes and A block — a Judaic Studies block for most students — has been added to the Friday schedule. 

All Judaic Studies classes — Tanach, Talmud, Advanced Gemara Shiur (AGS), Jewish History and Jewish Philosophy — will meet with their teachers on campus in the new plan, as will 9th grade World History which is a combined course with freshman Jewish History. In a Zoom call with students Sunday night, administration said that some Hebrew language classes will also take place in-person.

Classes on Monday through Thursday will remain at 40 minutes each, except for AGS which will stay 30 minutes long.


Yesterday, Sunday, there were 5,014 new cases of Covid-19 virus in LA County as of 7 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Health Department. The seven-day average of case positivity is at 8.1%, up by 1.2% since last Monday and more than triple what it was on Nov. 2, when it was 2.98%

When the reopening was paused Nov. 13, the reason given was the increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections in LA County. On that day, there were 2,016 new cases and the test positivity rate was 5.6%.  

“The community spread was increasing dramatically, and until we knew where those numbers were going, we as a task force didn’t feel comfortable opening,” Dr. Drazin said in an interview on Nov. 17.. “We didn’t want to be put in a position where we would open and have to close within a week.” 

Yesterday, Dr. Drazin said that the situation now is different, even though the positivity rate has increased.

“The numbers are better than expected,” Dr. Drazin said in an interview Friday afternoon. “I mean, they’re definitely higher than they were in the beginning of the pandemic — we know that — but in terms of the rise in cases it’s been less than the worst-case scenario. Worst-case scenario was kind of an exponential growth in cases.” 

He said the school’s new plan “[satisfies] the safety concerns that we had as well as giving people the opportunity to do something in-person if they wanted to.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is available.