What does our new normal look like? It looks like our chadar ochel (cafeteria) filled with students eating together. Students. Eating. Together. For the first time since March 2020, we are back in the chadar ochel!

Our new normal looks like our whole middle dchool, grades 5-8, coming together to share a meal. Our new normal sounds like laughter and excited conversation taking place in Hebrew and English. It is loud and joyful! It is our second- through fourth-graders reveling in being the first lower school students in the history of JCDS to get to eat their lunch in the chadar ochel.

Our new normal has a brand new Black Earth Compost bin filled after meals, and a basket of brightly colored headphones.

Headphones? Yes, noise canceling headphones.

Debbie Kopel-Kintish, lower school learning specialist, anticipated that the hustle and bustle of the chadar ochel might be a little much for some of our students, so she made a point of purchasing attractive, brightly colored headphones to have available. Our students know that if they need a little quiet to enjoy their meal, they can request a pair to wear. Indeed, our students are doing such a good job advocating for themselves, that we have already put in an order for more!

Our new normal looks like Shalom Krinsky, lower school classroom assistant and member of our new Lunch and Recess Team, clapping his hands and magically quieting down a room filled with 60+ students so that three fourth grade friends can stand up in the front of the room to lead birkat hamazon (the blessing after the meal) on Monday, only to be followed the very next day by an incredibly bold and brave third grader who volunteered to lead all on her own!

Our new normal has designated distanced seating for children whose families are not comfortable with them eating in the chadar ochel at this time. These students sit in the kitchen, enjoying quiet conversation at a distance. When they finish eating, they don their masks and rejoin their classmates to give thanks for their food, put away their lunch boxes, and head outside for recess.

Our new normal looks like one big lower school recess, followed by middle school recess. It is students of mixed ages playing a baseball game on the field, or waiting for their turn in the infamous JCDS four square game; it is a quiet moment on the buddy bench, and a table with arts and crafts materials.

Our new normal looks like JCDS at its very best: it is joyful and intentional. It is living pluralism, where there is space and respect for the needs of the individual so that each child can find their place in the community.

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