• Ettie Zaklos

Meet Our Community Helpers!

In mid-March, when COVID-19 forced us to close Preschool of the Arts’ physical doors, we knew that life for our young students was about to be very different. Like everyone, their world had turned upside down overnight. Our staff rose to the occasion in incredible ways to create a comprehensive virtual preschool program for our families – no small feat as face-to-face instruction and hands-on learning through play is a cornerstone of our educational philosophy.

At Preschool of the Arts, we hold a longstanding belief that teachers are the first responders for the children in their care. In the throes of the pandemic, as emergency personnel and essential workers claimed center stage, our teachers and staff who dedicated their lives to education stood staunchly on the front lines. They helped young children adjust to the new social realities, supported struggling parents through the challenges of at-home care, and continue to love and educate their students from afar.

Our school's doors may have physically closed - but our children's learning did not. Every week, our teachers prepared packets of materials, work sheets and lessons that were mailed to each student’s home. We created an online learning portal – nearly overnight – where we uploaded full video lessons, resources and support materials. From story time to art lessons, we connected with our students through the screen. Our three and four-year-old classes had daily live Zoom classes, allowing children to socially interact with their peers and continue to advance in their pre-academic studies of reading, writing and early math. After individual daily lessons, our school came together as a community for daily live Zoom specials – gardening, art, music, science and Shabbat specials that had everyone laughing, singing and dancing.

Our teachers also made sure to connect one-on-one with individual students through scheduled virtual playdates. Some students took their teacher on a personal tour of their bedrooms, others had tea parties, still others practiced their reading and writing with personalized attention. Through it all, our educators continued to inspire and uplift our young students – a safe and steady presence during a confusing time. The unusual school year culminated in grand fashion with our one-of-a-kind Pre-K Drive-by Graduation! Our Class of 2020 drove up to campus in a great car parade, each graduate decked out in cap and gown. By turn, each graduate stepped out of their vehicle to walk across a specially created set to receive his or her diploma, posing adorably for their proud parents. We were thrilled to be able to celebrate our graduates in such an exciting way, and the broad smiles and sparkling eyes told us that the students felt the same about the special conclusion to their preschool educational journey.

After months of closures, and careful guidance from the CDC and local health officials, we are thrilled to be opening for Summer of the Arts 2020! As our number one priority is safety first, the program has been heavily modified to adhere to strict health guidelines. We also overhauled our curriculum to “Meet Our Community Helpers”, with six weeks of fun activities exploring the careers of our frontline workers and healthcare heroes. Daily enriching activities such as art, sports, and STEM challenges are supported by the specials our program is known for – dance, water slides, golf, martial arts, science, soccer, tennis, dance, Spanish, and more!

We are so excited to be back together and once again offer our in-person care and love to our dear children. If this COVID crisis has taught me anything, it is that POTA community is strong enough to survive challenging times, and despite everything allow our children to thrive.

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