For many families with young children, Jewish preschool is their first meaningful step into Jewish communal life – a welcoming and safe space to explore Jewish tradition and meet other Jewish families. Atlanta’s 22 Jewish preschools have provided exactly those kinds of connections; however, when the COVID-19 virus hit, many Jewish preschools closed, teachers were furloughed, and families felt stranded.
Preschool directors and teachers worked hard to maintain a strong connection with their families as they navigated the best way to reopen their schools. But in reality, the schools were hit hard with lower enrollment numbers and rising costs for staffing, COVID-safe adaptive spaces, and PPE necessities.
Thankfully, Federation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund provided crucial funding for reopening. It allocated $100,000 to assist with reopening costs, including, but not limited to: new sanitation supplies and PPE including masks, gloves, disinfectant, cleaning supplies, no-touch thermometers, electrostatic foggers, and washing stations.
Following a second organizational needs survey, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund directed an additional $100,000 in scholarships to families at 12 of our Jewish preschools. Sixty-five families and 98 children have received scholarship assistance and the impact has been profound.
The global pandemic and financial impacts are still unfolding and creating significant needs for scholarships in the Jewish preschool sector. Families are finding themselves in serious financial distress due to under employment, and at the same time, they count on Jewish preschools for their children’s care. Jewish preschools are often at the core of a family’s connection and belonging in the Jewish community.
Federation’s funding strategy was to invest in preschools that are sustainable, have strong leadership, and support from their host institution (when applicable). Criteria were developed in order to evaluate eligibility for preschool re-opening grants. Ultimately, the goal was to keep as many children enrolled as possible and allow parents to remain in the workforce. The funds were made available so that families enrolled in the fall are able to continue into winter and, in some cases, new students can join in winter as well. This funding is a one-year infusion of additional support for tuition assistance needs during the 2020-21 school year.
One grateful family said: Unfortunately, due to COVID19 our financial situation was significantly impacted when my spouse, the main provider in the family, lost his job back in April 2020. This has resulted in losing over 70% of our household income resulting in a challenging financial reality for us in general and questions about our ability to continue covering our son’s daycare costs specifically. Thanks to your generosity my son is able to continue attending his preschool, he is happy and we’re happy knowing he is in a safe environment dedicated to continuing his Jewish education.“