Impact Stories:

COVID-19 Relief Stories: All Day at the J

Jewish Federation Helps Students Stay on Task While Parents Stay on the Job

JCC staff are on hand to help All Day at the J students.

When the pandemic forced schools to cancel in-person learning, many families needed a safe place for kids to access remote learning while parents worked — a place even for kindergartners, who could not yet read or use a computer. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh helped to meet that need.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC), a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation, created a solution, the All Day at the J (ADJ) program. By supplying a learning hub, ADJ solves a cascade of problems.

Without ADJ, children could lose school time. A parent might have to quit work, to care for children at home, ravaging family finances. Other learning-access solutions, if they had insufficient health protocols, would increase COVID risk.

Rachael Speck, director of the JCC’s Children, Youth and Family Division, reported, “We’ve been running remote learning hubs for K through grade 6 since Aug. 31. At peak, ADJ served 86 students in Squirrel Hill and 36 in the South Hills.”

Support for Youth & Families by the Numbers

A few of the many ways the Community Campaign has supported Jewish Pittsburgh through the COVID-19 crisis.

A school day for ADJ students means a full day at the JCC. Every child sits at a 6-foot table surrounded by a plastic barrier. ADJ staff members, under strict anti-COVID protocols, help students with remote access and prompt students to stay on task and on schedule. Staff members communicate with students’ teachers, to support learning. “Brain breaks” and physical breaks are integral to ADJ. “When the school day ends,” continues Speck, “we offer yoga, swimming, drama class or art,” with each pod of about 10 students acting as a unit.

All Day at the J kids light electric candles for Shabbat.

To address negative pandemic-related effects, ADJ partners with Connections Counseling. Licensed child development specialists from Connections consult with ADJ staff weekly and work directly with students as needed.

Marcie Solomon, who has two children in ADJ, says the program “created critical normalcy and stability in a year that was anything but.” The need to retain consistency was a priority for Solomon, whose 9-year-old son, Matthew, thrives in a stable, routine environment.

“The way ADJ is set up is perfect for what Matthew needs,” she notes. In addition to staff-student bonding, Solomon credits the inclusion of Jewish content: “Being able to observe Shabbat adds to the stability that makes Matthew comfortable.” At ADJ, Matthew has even started to learn the trumpet, which he practices in the JCC garage.

In discussing the costs of ADJ, Speck reports that staff time is the most significant expense and “thousands were spent on plastic barriers, a major internet upgrade, equipment and cleaning supplies.” The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh provided supplies, and other Federation allocations allowed the JCC to use existing resources for ADJ. “ADJ could not exist without Federation dollars,” says Speck.

Solomon adds, “I’m so, so grateful for being able to provide stability for my kids. That wouldn’t have happened without a strong Jewish community being here at the start of the pandemic, and the strong Jewish community wouldn’t be here without the Jewish Federation.”

The waiting list for ADJ is one measure of program success. The facts that children are learning and that parents — many of whom are essential workers — can keep their jobs show the program’s importance.

ADJ is an achievement worth trumpeting.

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