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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


Auerbach smoking a cigar behind Bill Russel after winning the 1966 NBA Finals. (Via Wikimedia Commons)
The Bereshit of Basketball
February 26, 2024

HBHA Adapts to Covid With Dynamic Learning Models


Slider photo by Jenny Safir

Mar. 13, 2020 seemed like a normal day. Students roamed around with their faces revealed, sitting next to their friends, and sharing school supplies. Little did they know what was about to happen. As the COVID-19 numbers grew, the world went into panic. Businesses shut down, people stocked up on toilet paper, and the world seemed to be coming to an end. Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy (HBHA), took all necessary precautions and sent students home to do online school for an undetermined amount of time. Two weeks passed, and the cases continued to rise. Spring Break ended, and yet, we were still at home. Zoom school continued, and it seemed never ending. 

The 2020/21 school year rolled around. The plan was for the whole school to be in person for one week, and online the next. For the first quarter, this worked out great. So, lower school (Kindergarten-4th grade), starting the week of Oct. 26, returned to in person school full time.  

“A lot of research has shown children, especially ages one to ten are far less susceptible to getting the coronavirus, and far less capable of spreading the virus” says Adam Tilove, Head of School at HBHA. “The fifth grade is in the elementary school, but lumped with the upper school. That is because fifth grade is ten and eleven year olds, so in order to be extra secure, we included the fifth grade with the older grades.” 

Students still had the option to be fully online, which is a decision that was already made at the start of the year by each family, judging by what works best for their situation. Tilove predicted that less than 10% of lower school students took the fully online route. 

Many of the surrounding schools were on this plan for weeks- elementary schoolers were fully in school, while middle and high schoolers followed a hybrid style model. Each school has a different plan, and there is not much consistency throughout the city. 

As a private school, HBHA has not been influenced by the decisions made in the nearby schools. Lower and Middle School Principal, Dr. Jessica Kyanka says the decision is made by a “taskforce that has been working together most of the summer and continues to meet virtually once a week to make decisions based on our school population, and best practices.” 

The learning model that HBHA adopted for the lower school students enabled not only an optimal learning environment, but a safe one. Photo by Jane Martin

“HBHA follows the guidelines from the KS Department of Health and Education. After opening and following mitigation procedures and carefully monitoring the gating criteria, K-4 was able to return full time,” says Kyanka. However, if one student in the school tests positive, the response will be “decided on a case by case basis. Should a cohort or class need to be in quarantine for 14 days- they will be notified,” Kyanka responds.

It seemed as if this plan would last, as long as students and faculty continued to follow safety precautions that were set in place. When arriving at school, temperatures were taken, and students were expected to sanitize their hands before entering the building and throughout the day. Masks were worn full time, except while eating. When possible, students stayed six feet apart or more, and desks were constantly sanitized. 

Stefanie Williams, mother of third grader Amos and sixth grader Ayla, described her overall feelings as “cautiously optimistic! Everything has been going so smoothly and I know how much the lower school students enjoy being in-person.” Her son, Amos “thrives in the in-person setting,” said Williams. She thought that the school did a great job at keeping up with regulations, and she had no complaints. 

Williams said that her daughter, Ayla, “keeps reminding [her] that big kids aren’t that great at social distancing,” which is one reason the middle and high schoolers could not go back full time. We still know so little about COVID-19, and no one really knows how to respond. “We don’t know the impact flu season will have on everyone and the top priority is to keep everyone safe and healthy,” said Williams. As a parent, she is most thankful “that the committee, the staff and our families are committed to doing this safely and beneficially for everyone!”

Health and safety were the chief components to HBHA’s in person learning model, where students and faculty alike were required to wear face masks and maintain a distance of six feet whenever possible. Photo by Jane Martin

However, HBHA’a Lower school students, along with the rest of the school, returned to virtual learning after Nov. 6.  Tilove explained to the community in a Nov. 10 email that the campus will be closed for everyone for another week. The gating criteria, meaning the positivity rate that the community must be under in order to attend school, HBHA follows is detailed on the  Johnson County, Ks. Covid Dashboard . When in the red zone (greater than 15% positivity rate), this indicates that schools should be fully remote. At the time of the email, Johnson County’s positivity rate was 15.2%, and now, as of Nov 16,  it has risen to 16.2%. The HBHA taskforce watches the data closely, making decisions based on what is best for the community. The hope is to be able to open the campus again soon, but no official decision will be made until the numbers begin to drop. 

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