Safely together again. #TorahMatters
Valley Torah High School
August 27, 2020 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mr. Lev Stark (818-505-7999)
Update on Re-opening Valley Torah High School
Los Angeles, CA –- Our mission at Valley Torah High School is to provide an excellent Torah and College Preparatory program that inspires our students to lead lives dedicated to Torah values, the pursuit of higher education and personal growth, resulting in a successful interface with an ever changing world.
The vision we have for our students is for them to be committed, proud, and learned Jews who understand their roles within the Jewish Community and the world at large. They will recognize the importance of developing good character traits and integrity, and they will treat all people with respect. They will have a thirst for acquiring greater knowledge while pursuing their spiritual and academic goals.
During this unprecedented time, we have been unfortunately relegated to distance learning only in our educational mission. Although we are thankful that we have this opportunity, it is our firmly held belief that in person conversations are indispensable to the carrying out our vision and our instilling of Torah Values.
As a result, we have been required to provide, and continue to provide, our normal college preparatory high school courses online via distance learning only. As soon as the restrictive orders are lifted, we will go back to a schedule of full in-person school, following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), State and County.
As the school year rapidly approaches, we have been working on different ideas and plans for reopening our school. These plans have been, and will continue to be, guided by, State, and county guidelines, which have been moving goal posts all summer.
As always, our main emphasis is the safety of the children and staff. With that said, we are looking at the safety of the children from a holistic perspective. This clearly needs to take their emotional as well as their religious state into account.
In no surprise, a recent study of children and teens by clinical psychologists found that social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of depression, as well as the possibility of anxiety at the time of loneliness, which was measured between 0.25-9 years later. The duration of loneliness was strongly correlated with mental health symptoms more than the intensity of loneliness.
As an administration we feel very strongly about the need for children to be together, in person. We are in touch with the County Health Department and are eagerly awaiting the lift on the ban for school reopening in our area.
With that in mind, we also want to be there for the children and families of our community. While we await the green light to open school, we have moved to create a teen religious day camp to address the religious growth and mental health of the children. In the same way that day camps operate as math camps, science camps, English camps, chess camps, performing arts camps and innumerable other academic and educational camps, our day camp will be based on the instillation and reinforcement of our Torah Values. This day camp will run concurrently to the online school, beginning at the end of August.
This means that we are asking our Rabbis and Religious Studies staff to run our day camp and work with our students in a proper social distancing environment, following all the guidelines set forth by the State of California pursuant to its July 29, 2020 “Covid-19 Interim Guidance: Day Camps,” county orders and the CDC for operating camps. This includes the campers wearing masks, frequently sanitizing and washing, and keeping 6 feet of distance between campers and staff. This religious day camp will focus on the religious and mental health of our children through prayer services, religious programs and Torah studies. To accommodate the need for more physical space, we are renting additional space and installing outdoor tents.
Many of our students – past and present – have jokingly referred to our school as “Camp VT.” Well, the joke is becoming reality – for part of the day.
After discussions with Torah leaders, our health committee, attorneys and other schools, we have decided to run an in-person Teen Jewish Studies Day Camp half the day (as permitted in LA County Dept. of Health Protocols for Reopening), and Zoom school for secular studies the other half of the day. The Boys Division will have camp in the morning and Zoom in the afternoon, while the Girls Division will have the camp portion of the day in the afternoon.
Is this legal? Is it the path appropriate for a Torah school?
The answer to both questions: Yes.
Let me explain. Our students are hurting. More than five months with no school, no real daily structure and minimal Torah studies has left many of our students reeling. Most other schools find themselves in the same situation. The Day Camp scenario became the best solution for our community-wide dilemma.
What is the difference between a Day Camp and a school? School is classes for credit. School leads to moving to the next grade and ultimately to graduation. Camp, even computer or math camp, does not grant class credit. This distinction is based on the guidance of the State and the LA County Department of Health.
The camp portion of the day will have Torah classes only. Students and staff will be required to wear masks and social distance. All laws and regulations will be kept. Great effort has been expended to ensure that every student and staff member will be protected from the risk of exposure to COVID-19. (Visit VTHSCovid.com for all the details.) Families that are not comfortable with in-person day camp will be allowed to Zoom in to the Torah classes. Secular studies will be held remotely until schools are once again allowed to be held in-person.
Everything that we are doing is kosher and approved by our attorneys. We hope that this program will bring vital relief to our students and their families.
We pray for a quick salvation from this pandemic.
אבינו מלכנו, מנע מגפה מנחלתך.
אבינו מלכנו, שלח רפואה שלמה לחולי עמך.
Valley Torah High School strives to provide a thriving learning environment at our school and day camp where students and campers can grow in the midst of COVID-19. In order to create a safe learning environment for students and campers at our school and camp, and in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance on re-opening, Valley Torah High School established these policies to bring our school and day camp re-opening principles to fruition. For more information, visit vthscovid.com.