By Nicole Hawkins
Special to the TJP
The Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas is offering a learning support program for students whose schools are meeting virtually this fall.
Club J Your Way is a program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, where children are able to log on to their virtual classrooms and complete work with the support of educators and staff members at the JCC. In their free time, students can play and socialize, which JCC Sports and League Director Josh Goldstein says is an important aspect of the program.
“I think [the kids] are excited to be here because of the social ability,” Goldstein said. “Being around other kids their own age, I think, has excited them. They’ve had opportunities to not only learn together but to play together during some free time. I think that’s helped them adapt to a type of learning that they probably weren’t expecting.”
Tara Ohayon, director of early childhood at the JCC, said the idea of the program came while she was working from home with her children in the spring.
“I think [the program is] important because it’s really hard for many people to have their children at home doing school virtually and working at the same time,” Ohayon said.
Ellen Bond, who has a second and fifth grader enrolled in the program, said that as a mom in a dual working parent household, she needed a place where her children could do their schooling so that she could get her work done.
“I don’t know how I would’ve survived without having [this program],” Bond said.
Club J Your Way is following all CDC guidelines, Ohayon said. The program organizes students into pods of up to 10 children and two educators. There are around 60 students enrolled in the program currently.
Bond said her children’s days at Club J start with temperature checks. Students are required to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking, and parents aren’t permitted into the building when dropping off and picking up their kids.
“They really do have our kids’ best interest at heart,” Bond said. “I know that they would not put our kids in jeopardy any way intentionally.”
The JCC conducted eight weeks of summer camp operating under CDC guidelines, which made them feel comfortable in their ability to run Club J safely, Ohayon said.
“After having spent six weeks at camp, I wasn’t worried at all coming into this J program,” Bond, whose children attended summer camp, said. “Had I not been there over the summer to see what an amazing job they had done, I may have had more concerns, but going through the summer it was a great way to see, ‘Can we do this?’ and they can.”
Goldstein said the JCC’s ability to operate a safe summer camp experience encouraged them in their ability to run future programs.
“We’ve been excited about the fact that we were successfully able to run our camp safely… and that we’ve continued to be able to run this program safely,” Goldstein said. “I think it gives the whole J excitement about the opportunity for running in-person programs safely, maybe not to the enrollment level that we previously were able to handle, but still overall being able to… provide services for them in new ways like Club J and in some of our traditional ways as well as we get ready for the fall and winter.”
Bond said she’s thankful that the JCC is “looking out for the working parents.”
“We’re really lucky to have a place like that,” Bond said. “And to know they do it all with Jewish values makes it that much better.”