Some parents have opted to enroll their children in Jewish private school rather than continue with public school this year because of concerns over the handling of COVID-19.
Amy Helman-Darley, the outreach and engagement manager for The Davis Academy, said that some grades had a waitlist as the school year began. “The Davis Academy has received an increase in applicants over the last few weeks,” she said. Just before the year started, the school had “a very limited number of spaces remaining in certain grade levels.”
AJA’s enrollment is also up, said Erica Gal, director of admissions. Though AJA did have families coming from public school, she’s not sure if the pandemic is the direct cause, since people are drawn to the school for the rigorous dual curriculum.
“What we did see, which is interesting, is we had a lot of families move from out of town. I do believe because of COVID they can work remotely, have family, have a better community or more land space,” Gal said. “Because we did get a number of families moving to Atlanta for either our school or our community, because they are now able to work remotely, that is something I think contributed.”
This school year, AJA is offering an adaptive model for the younger grades with options for face-to-face and virtual instruction. “Parents are really appreciative,” Gal said of the school’s efforts to accommodate different families’ needs.
Sarah Koohang, The Epstein School’s digital media and communications coordinator, said they “have certainly seen an increase in applications” from parents interested in switching their children to the school.
Lynne Eisenstein is one such parent. She had already planned to send her two older children to Epstein for sixth grade, but the end of last school year prompted her to switch her younger daughter from public school as well. “We always knew that those two were going to go to Epstein,” she said. “That doesn’t change what the end of the school year was like last year, which was brutal.”
Eisenstein lives in the Heards Ferry Elementary School district and said the school has been “phenomenal. People who are moving to this general area move into this district because of this school. … it’s a very sought-after area to be in.”
However, the Fulton County-wide protocols for virtual school last year led to a turbulent end of school for Eisenstein’s family. “We would sit at the dining room table and we’d basically all just yell at each other,” she said. Her kids would get assignments at the beginning of the week with a deadline and have short calls with teachers. “It wasn’t always clear if it was mandatory or optional,” she said of the calls. “What ended up happening was parents had to teach their kids. There is a reason why I’m not a school teacher. It was so stressful.”
She said that as she was sitting with her kids at their dining room table attempting to help them with their school work, the other families on her street whose children went to Jewish private schools were having a very different experience. “They were doing virtual school,” she said. “It wasn’t online assignments. Their teachers were in front of them. They had full days of classes with their whole entire class list, and it wasn’t what was coming down from Fulton County.”
Eisenstein said that she saw the contrast of Jewish private school education to the county’s last- minute changes as the school year began. “When this all came down [Epstein] hit the ground running.”
Her youngest daughter Marin was resistant to switching schools, Eisenstein said. She wanted to finish her elementary career at Heards Ferry with her school friends and teachers, but eventually warmed up to the idea after a social distanced playdate with a friend who went to Epstein. “To be honest, my concern was that knowing that my youngest, who was going to be in fifth grade at public school but for middle school was going to be at Epstein … was she would have to repeat fifth grade. She just wasn’t going to get what she needed for sixth grade,” Eisenstein said. She was referring to the way she felt virtual school was being handled by the public school system.
Her children are now able to engage in school at their own desks with virtual instruction for the entire day. “It is so good. It’s without a glitch. The teachers are all prepared with the curriculum and taught how to engage,” she said.