We have a new primary school principal, and as she begins work in these uncertain times, she will certainly rely on the support and involvement of parents in the education system. She is already actively working with Nir Sharon, Director of Educational Institutions and Youth Club to plan for the coming year, and the Parents’ Community will figure prominently in the activities during the year. Although the school has been teaching the human values of culture and tradition for its entire existence, we now have a printed curriculum for all grades, and we expect the Parents’ Community, as a group, to improve their grasp of the new HOTAM curriculum’s goals and segments so as to help their children continue discussing at home the concepts and ideas they learn in school. Finally, due to a new school opening in the area, a number of students will not be returning in the coming school year. Despite this setback, the Primary School has committed to retaining its full teaching staff and working to recruit new children and restore the balance between Jewish and Arab children. In this, too, we depend on the support and involvement of the Parents’ Community
The Primary School is an exceptional place. As you may already know, it is the first school in Israel where children learn together in Hebrew and Arabic, and models a successful bilingual, binational approach to education for equal numbers of Palestinian and Jewish children ages kindergarten through sixth grade. What you may not know is that 90% of the school’s students arrive from more than a dozen communities in the region to join the eligible children from the Village itself. As students return for in-person learning, the Primary School is also growing as a learning community.
In March, the children celebrated Purim. In accordance with COVID regulations, each class celebrated the holiday in separate capsules. Currently, many students are observing Ramadan, and their teachers ensure these students are supported throughout this special. Whether or not children are fasting during Ramadan, the Primary School also celebrates Girgian. This festival is celebrated halfway through the Muslim holy month to reward children for observing Ramadan, though all students participate in the festivities.
As is true for all educators and students, the struggles of distance learning at the Primary School have been difficult to overcome. It is a testament to the commitment and skill of our teachers that students remain engaged. Students can be observed working together and communicating bilingually, despite being in a “digital” classroom. But in spite of our best efforts and the gifts of our remarkable community, some students still struggle with access. We’ve discovered that some parents felt embarrassed to ask for the help they needed to procure computers and/or internet access. But now that the ongoing necessity has become clear, these parents have come to us asking for help and we must show up for those students, all thirty-five of them. That’s a $35,000 commitment to educational equity. But it’s the start of building the future together. Additionally, our expanding teacher staff requires further training to best serve our multi-cultural and multi-lingual students. With your support, we can provide the assistance veteran teachers need to better mentor and train our new teachers. Our goal is, as always, to create a supportive and nurturing learning environment for every student, every day. This remains true whether students join us on campus or log in to a zoom meeting. At the end of this winter term, we can look forward to showing you the work and telling you the stories of our great digital learning adventures.
Since the Spring, children have been adjusting to shifting between virtual and "real” school, missing their friends, and then learning to wear masks even when they can be together. When they were able to return to school this Fall, the children were greeted by their most-requested addition to their school day: new playground equipment! The earlier playground equipment, which wasn’t accessible and was getting worn out, had served 25 years of Primary School students! Filled with joyous and fun-filled chattering in Hebrew and Arabic, playgrounds are nearly the only place where our students can do what children are supposed to do- PLAY! More equipment will be added this year as funding becomes available.
Like families around the world, some parents were furloughed from work and had great difficulty paying for tuition and transportation. Parents who could afford to keep one child in school spoke about needing to take the second child, or both, out. While the Primary School trimmed costs where ever possible, donors have been instrumental in supporting an unbroken education for families in need. A scholarship fund was opened to support 50 Jewish and Arab families facing extreme financial hardship to help pay for their school tuition and transportation.
We are glad that all available places for the two classes of each grade 1-6 have been filled. That has raised, once more, the question of growing into a bilingual, multicultural middle school. Because several years of study have already been done, the planning stage for this is likely to begin this year.
One hundred and sixty-eight children in grades 1-3 are back in their beloved Primary School in real time while the other half of the school, in grades 4-6, continue distance-learning in small groups with their teachers.
When you’ve been studying ancient building methods, it gets “real” when the students experiment with the materials available to them. In this case, it’s also a perfect fit with the School’s K-6 recycle, re-use, no-waste commitment.
It takes time for children everywhere to learn to keep their masks on. The exception is lunch time, when everyone stays in small groups but no one has learned how stay masked and eat.
The masks and separation into small-groups might be the “new normal” for a while, but what stays the same is the Primary School’s Arabic-Hebrew bilingual, binational and multicultural study of every subject including literature and history.
We are preparing this next generation to be courageous explorers of the world they will inherit. They may even remember these days as a time of wonder!
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