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Jewish day schools’ fall semester plans include steps to combat COVID-19

Pittsburgh’s three Jewish day schools are opening for in-person instruction over the next several days, following recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in an effort to minimize transmission of COVID-19 by students and staff.

Community Day School has imposed a face-covering requirement, according to Jennifer Bails, the school’s director of marketing and communications. Other precautions to ward off the coronavirus include maximizing physical distancing, prioritizing hygiene, requiring students and staff to stay home when sick, increasing ventilation and focusing on cleaning and disinfecting.

Even with increased safety protocols, though, leaders of all three days schools acknowledge the possibility that a student or staff member may contract COVID-19. Each school has developed guidelines and strategies, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to combat further spread.

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Following CDC mandates, all three schools will require a student or staff member who tests positive for the coronavirus to isolate at home for at least 10 days from when symptoms first appeared and until they are fever-free without medication.

Any student or staff member exposed to a person who tests positive for the virus also will need to be quarantined, explained Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh’s principal, Rabbi Sam Weinberg. At Hillel, that quarantine will last for 10 days; at CDS and Yeshiva Schools, it will remain in effect for 14 days from the last date of contact.

Areas in the school occupied by an infected student or staff member will be closed for a minimum of 24 hours and then cleaned, sanitized and ventilated, as recommended by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC.

The schools will report all positive cases to the Allegheny Department of Health.

Students and faculty in close contact with an infected student or staff member will be identified through contact tracing. CDS’ nurse recently completed the COVID-19 contact tracing course developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and will perform this function at the school. Hillel Academy has created a medical advisory team that will be tasked with contact tracing.

“Close contact,” according to CDS’ Bails, is defined by the CDC as any individual who is within six feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes beginning two days before the illness’ onset (or for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to a positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

Before returning to school, students and staff who have tested positive will need to verify with CDS’ school nurse, Hillel’s medical advisory team and Yeshiva School’s head of school that the appropriate criteria have been met.

Even while at home, students in isolation will not necessarily miss classes. All three schools have developed online learning resources, allowing students to transition from in-person to virtual instruction seamlessly.

Although the possibility of a mass outbreak of the virus exists, none of the schools are planning to shut down their campuses unless certain metrics provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education are met. The length of the closure will depend on the level of community transmission and number of cases at the school.

School leaders note that they have plans to keep students as safe as possible and will update their guidelines and procedures based on CDC recommendations. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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