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!
For many of us, playgrounds bring fond memories of new friendships and childhood adventures. However, recent changes in the Ministry of Education’s safety regulations have meant that the “Purple Playground of Friendship” has had to remove swings, slides, and the playhouse. None of this equipment will be replaced by the Ministry of Education.
Last week, with nothing to play on before, during, or after school, the children took their lessons on democracy to heart. They voiced their dissatisfaction by making signs and demonstrating for a replacement playground.
A fundraising committee has been formed with representatives from all classes at the school, determined to renew Purple Playground. The students are taking charge of this project- a child contributed his $5 birthday gift as the first donation towards the new playground. Parents are involved as well, volunteering time and forming their own fundraising committee.
The Primary School’s playground is vital to the mission of the school, enabling Jewish and Arabs children to build bilingual friendships that bridge divides.
We hope that you will support this project and help us to re-create the Purple Playground for the Primary School students. If recess was ever your favorite part of the day, bring that joy to these children. Together, we can provide an accessible, creative playground where cross-cultural play forges strong friendships and hopes for the future. With your help, we can make this goal a reality.
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