Preparations for the structural steel frame that will form the skeleton of the new addition continue. The steel work is scheduled to begin on March 6. Here you can see the builders have added the wooden scaffolding and prepared the foundations that will support the construction of the structural steel work. You can also see the close up of the foundations for the new elevator shaft, which will support a faster and more modern elevator. Below, you can also see a picture of the old school entrance doors, currently hidden inside the building behind temporary walls in the school wing. This old entrance is being prepared to become the secondary set of security doors that separate the school wing from the rest of the temple, providing an extra layer of security for our students.
After discussing our policies with our pediatric consultant, we have determined that it is appropriate at this time to make two changes, which we hope will be a positive shift for children and parents alike:
- Effective immediately, individuals identified as close contacts will no longer be required to mask OUTSIDE during the 10-day post-exposure period
- If your child is identified as a close contact, please reach out to your child’s teachers to let them know if you would like your child to remain masked when spending time outside at TSNS
- If your child’s teachers do not hear from you, they will assist your child in unmasking outside and re-masking when returning indoors
- Effective immediately, post-exposure testing will no longer be limited to PCR tests
- Parents may choose whether to have their child PCR tested (no earlier than Day 6 after exposure to the covid-positive individual) OR to follow a two-time antigen testing protocol (with tests administered 48 hours apart on Day 5 and Day 7 after exposure)
- As usual, information about specific testing dates for each type of test will be shared in future close contact notifications
- NOTE: There is no change to our policy regarding required PCR tests or doctor’s notes when a child exhibits any symptoms of COVID-19
As we begin the 2022-2023 school year:
- Vaccination of children under age 5 available; while not required at TSNS at this time, COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended.
- TSNS will be mask-optional except when community levels in DC or Montgomery County are “high”, or when we note significant trends in our TSNS community that warrant a return to masking.
- Masking will not be required outside.
- No covid fees are being assessed at TSNS.
- Antigen tests are widely available at no cost; we are requesting that families use their own tests when requested to provide antigen test results.
- The playground is open and ready for fun!
- Children from different classes will be able to mix for activities such as Rainbow Days and the Temple Sinai Early Birds Program; if it becomes advisable from a public health perspective to return to strict cohorting indoors we will evaluate how these programs may continue to operate based on staffing and other factors.
- Children will be able to enjoy proximity to one another now that we will not be implementing physical distancing as a mitigation strategy.
- Snack and lunch may now be enjoyed indoors.
- There is no requirement to quarantine or test after traveling for any members of our community, regardless of vaccination status.
- We will follow OSSE and DC Health guidelines for Child Care Programs and will also be guided by CDC recommendations for best practices (where not in conflict with OSSE and DC Health guidelines). We will consult with our COVID-19 Advisory Group and TSNS Pediatric Consultant as needed.
- No daily health screening form will be required of staff or children; HOWEVER, rules about attending school with any symptom of covid remain the same – in order to attend school after experiencing any symptom of covid, all members of the community (faculty, staff, child, regardless of vaccination status) must have either a negative PCR test or a doctor’s note clearing them.
- Vaccinated close contacts may return to school, masked for 10 days (KN/KF) following the close contact. They should be PCR tested for covid at least five days after exposure.
- If there is a covid-positive individual in their household from whom they cannot isolate, a vaccinated close contact may return to school, but must remain masked (KN/KF) for the isolation period of that individual (at least five days, or until that individual tests negative/Day 11), plus remain masked for an additional 10 days.
- Unvaccinated close contacts may return to school following a one-time contact; HOWEVER, they must submit a negative antigen test every morning before arriving to school for 5 days (“test to stay”) and remain masked (KN/KF) for 10 days following the contact.
- If there is a covid-positive individual in their household from whom they cannot isolate, an unvaccinated close contact must remain HOME for the isolation period of that individual (at least five days, or until that individual tests negative/Day 11), plus remain home for an additional 5 days. They may then return after a negative PCR test, remaining masked (KN/KF) for another 5 days.
- We will return to regular cleaning protocols as required by OSSE and NAEYC, with special attention still paid to high-touch surfaces around the building.
- Bathrooms will be able to be used freely (and not based on gender); it is recommended that only one class be in the bathroom at a time as feasible.
Our shared commitment to keeping our community safe and healthy is what will allow us to enjoy these last weeks of the year together with the fewest interruptions. As you know, there are several elements of our ongoing Covid protocols, including daily health screening and surveillance testing. While community levels of Covid were low, we were able to relax our masking requirement and offer the option of unmasking outside and indoors.
Unfortunately, community levels in DC are now at medium, so we will be returning to required masking indoors, and recommended masking outside. You may still send your child to school in any well-fitting mask you prefer, unless community levels increase further, in which case we will also return to a requirement that all children, faculty, and staff wear KN95 or KF94 masks.
- Please ensure that you send your child to school with additional masks in case they need to be changed during the day.
- Please also let your child’s teachers know if you wish to change your preference for outdoor masking in light of the uptick in Covid community levels.
The increase in Covid cases in our area also means that our surveillance testing and daily health screening are more important tools to control Covid spread in our community than ever. As you prepare for your child to return to TSNS next week, please note the following:
- All children, faculty, and staff must complete a two consecutive day antigen testing protocol before they return to TSNS for the first time after break
- The first test must be completed the day before returning to school, and the second must be completed the morning of the return to school;
- Each test must be labeled by name and date; and
- A photo of the labeled and dated test results must be sent the day they were administered to email@example.com (please do not send photos of both tests on the same day).
- If your child was not at school before the break you may not have received your next set of antigen tests; please use your own tests and you’ll receive two new antigen tests in your child’s tote bag when they return to school.
- Please note that we will be unable to permit attendance at TSNS without the submission of two properly administered and labeled antigen tests showing negative results.
- Please be on the lookout for any symptoms of Covid including, but not limited to, runny nose, fatigue, headache, sore throat, nausea, fever, coughing, aches and chills, and otherwise feeling unwell.
- We recognize that there is a significant overlap between Covid symptoms and seasonal allergies, and that several families have submitted doctor’s notes about allergies as an underlying condition that causes these symptoms. Please err on the side of caution and, if any of the symptoms of Covid arise, get a PCR test to clear yourself or your child rather than assuming that allergies or other non-Covid illnesses are the cause of these symptoms.
- Similarly, if someone in your household is exhibiting symptoms, please consider having everyone in the household PCR tested.
- Please let us know immediately if any member of your household tests positive for Covid so that we can inform you of the most up-to-date DC Health requirements for isolation and quarantine.
Dear Temple Sinai Religious School Families,
As you may have seen on Friday, Temple Sinai is moving to a mask-optional protocol for services and Temple programming beginning tomorrow, Monday March 14. We are excited that the growing health of our community, and the DC Health and CDC guidelines allow our synagogue community to begin to regather not only eye to eye, but smile to smile, again.
Beginning Monday March 14, Temple Sinai Religious School will also shift our COVID-19 protocols to mask optional. Additionally, there is no longer a need to show your vaccination status when entering the building.
We recognize that this change brings a different level of comfort from our community. At TSRS, our rules: Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Your Best translate in our mask-optional environment. You can talk with your student about being kind to all regardless of mask choice, and respecting the different needs of different members of our community. We are responsible when continuing to follow good hand washing procedures, and staying home when sick. Just as we have traveled the journey of the last two years together – we move forward into this next phase together, being our very best – the Temple Sinai family we truly are.
We also recognize that, as always, the pandemic continues to change, even in this stage of improvement. Our COVID Protocols will also do so. TSRS and the whole Temple Sinai community remain nimble and flexible to adjust our protocols to meet guidance from DC Health, the CDC, and the Temple Sinai COVID-19 Advisory Group.
May we continue to go together from strength to strength,
Cantor Rebecca Robins
Effective Monday, March 14, 2022, Temple Sinai is adopting the recommendations of DC Health and other agencies (see below)* and will not require masks or proof of vaccination for anyone entering the temple with the exception of Temple Sinai Nursery School indoor all-school programs and meetings.
Please note that if the situation changes and DC Health or other agencies recommend masking or other protective measures, we will follow their guidance and restore any necessary protocols.
We understand this is a significant and swift change that is not comfortable for everyone. After two years of pandemic isolation and strict requirements for in-person programs, some temple members, staff, and guests may not yet feel safe to gather with others or simply are not ready. We support you and whatever decisions you make for yourself and your family members regarding attendance, masks, and social distancing. You should continue to wear a mask whenever you want at Temple Sinai or to remove it when you feel comfortable. For Shabbat services and indoor programs, whenever possible, we will use rooms that are big enough to allow space for individuals who want to sit with more distance from others. We will continue providing virtual access through Zoom so you can still participate from home when you want to.
*Beginning February 15, 2022, the Government of the District of Columbia stated that indoor venues will no longer be required to verify that patrons are vaccinated.
On March 8, 2022, both DC and Montgomery County lifted mask mandates for schools. DC Health released updated COVID-19 guidelines for schools recommending masks only when D.C. is experiencing high community transmission, which is not currently the case. DC Health’s new guidelines align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which at the end of February shifted away from recommending masks in K-12 settings in all regions except those experiencing high transmission. Read more here.
It is hard to believe, but it has been almost exactly two years since COVID-19 first began impacting our community. As the pandemic loomed in March of 2020, we were facing the unthinkable – a scary time where we could not gather together in person, see familiar faces surrounding us in support, or hug one another to offer comfort. During our period of on-site closure, we deeply missed the joyful presence of each child and their family, and it took the concerted efforts of many to determine a path toward reopening that provided the safest environment possible while also offering the loving, playful, supportive, and engaging learning experiences that are the hallmark of Temple Sinai Nursery School.
I have often said that my crystal ball became especially cloudy back in March of 2020, and while it is still not providing a perfectly clear view into the future, we have come remarkably far together. And as circumstances continue to evolve, we will continue to forge ahead – together. This beautiful community of families, faculty, and staff has shown tenacity, creativity, resilience, commitment, and flexibility as we responded to the demands of the pandemic, and it is those qualities that will support us as we continue forward.
As we consider how we will proceed, we are informed by the recent changes in DC Health’s revised policies, which now align prevention measures to “community levels” of covid transmission and link to the CDC’s guidelines for many protocols. We will be measured and intentional as we review how these changes will be reflected in our policies at TSNS, and will continue to be fully transparent with you about shifts in protocols that are planned or under consideration.
Many factors are part of the mix as we consider our path forward, including, but not limited to:
- DC Health guidelines and requirements, and any clarifications provided by DC Health and/or OSSE for early childhood programs;
- CDC recommendations, including those linked directly to the DC Health Guidance;
- Recommendations from our COVID-19 Advisory Group and pediatric consultant;
- Discussions with faculty, staff, Nursery School Committee members, and Temple Sinai leadership;
- Family feedback (including conversations initiated by our Parents’ Association Co-Chairs, who continue to organize and share parent feedback and questions with me); and
- The children’s experience at TSNS, including how we support their ongoing development, acknowledge their resilience, and maintain our focus on their health and safety.
As we proceed incrementally, we adopted some changes beginning Monday, March 14, and made additional shifts in policy on Monday, April 4. While any policy shifts we make now may change as conditions evolve, we want to assure you that we recognize that this is not a race to return to “normal.” We will continue to approach any protocol changes with the same care we used when shaping our response to the pandemic, and the voices of all members of our community are valued sources of input.
Here’s what changed beginning on Monday, March 14:
- The playground became a shared play space! With the removal of the subdividing fencing, children are now able to enjoy the full breadth of our wonderful outdoor resource every day. Please note that this means that children are now mixing with other class cohorts in their age group while outdoors.
- Isolation periods for those who test positive for covid are reduced to five (5) days for mild or asymptomatic cases. A return to school on Day Six is permitted for those who are asymptomatic for 24 hours, provide a negative antigen test, and are able to consistently wear a properly fitted KN95/KF94 mask at TSNS for five (5) additional days.
- Quarantine periods for individuals who are not up to date in their vaccination status and are close contacts of an individual who has tested positive for covid are also reduced to five (5) days, and a return on Day 6 is permitted with a negative antigen or PCR test. Due to increased accuracy, PCR tests are preferred but no longer required.
- We will accept home antigen tests following travel outside of the DMV (PCR tests preferred); tests should be administered the day before or the day of a child’s planned return to TSNS. No quarantine period will be required.
- Children and staff members may wear a mask of their choice provided that it remains closely fitted to the sides of the face and covers the nose.
- Two adults may attend our school events, including Purim Parades, Family Shabbat Sings, and our All-School Passover Sing Along.
- All visiting adults must be up to date in their vaccinations.
Here is what changed beginning on Monday, April 4:
- Masks are optional both outdoors and inside for children, faculty, and staff. Masks will only be optional at TSNS when community levels are LOW.
- This shift to a mask-optional policy is accompanied by weekly surveillance testing for all children, faculty, and staff, using antigen tests provided by TSNS. The duration of this weekly surveillance testing protocol is yet to be determined.
- All children and adults will be required to wear masks for all-school indoor events such as Shabbat Sing.
- Children whose families elect to have them participate in school programming unmasked will be required to wear a properly fitted KN95/KF94 mask at TSNS to return on Day 6 following a positive covid test.
Many policies will remain unchanged:
- Support for all families’ and teachers’ choices to remain masked.
- Use of the MyMedBot daily screening app (which will be updated to reflect shifts in policies).
- Attention to air circulation in indoor spaces through continuing use of our air filtration units and opening windows as weather permits.
- The expectation that those who are sick stay home:
- This includes any symptoms of covid listed on our daily health screening that are not attributable to an alternate diagnosis (in which case a negative PCR test and/or doctor’s note is required to be cleared);
- Families must also follow our regular TSNS illness policy set forth on page 19 of our Parent Handbook and in the DC Guidelines for Communicable Diseases provided in the Appendix on pages 30-32.
- Our faculty members and facilities staff will continue to keep our materials and spaces clean, following sanitation and disinfection guidance from both OSSE and NAEYC.
As we look toward the possibility of additional changes in our covid policies, please know that we recognize that this is a challenging time of transition and a recalibration of mindsets and approaches. We also understand that we will likely not be able to make everyone happy with the decisions that we make; however, we hope that everyone feels that all decisions are made with the care, attention, and informed approach that they deserve, and that we will continue to place our children, families, faculty, and staff at the center of our decision-making process.
Shabbat Shalom and be well,
- We’re concerned about the health and safety of our staff, members, guests and vendors while Covid persists.
- With input from the Covid Advisory Group and the Temple Board, the Covid health situation is monitored on an ongoing basis and policies are shifted as needed.
- Covid variants and the fact that vaccines are not available for all age groups makes it necessary to continue being careful.
- At this time, for general temple programming and services, we are maintaining the policies established this Fall.
- Temple schools may have more restrictive guidelines consistent with regulatory requirements and DC Health recommendations.
- Covid safety screenings*
- Required for all who enter the building including members, staff, contractors and vendors. The temple staff or security contractors will be checking the following at entrances:
- For those eligible for vaccination, show proof of vaccination (either card or image of it)
- For those unable to be fully vaccinated, show lab results of a negative Covid test. Test results must be from a CLIA certified lab; home test results are not accepted. Antigen tests taken within 24 hours or PCR tests within 72 hours are accepted.
- Outdoors, in open settings, there is no requirement for vaccine card/test checks.
- Required for all who enter the building including members, staff, contractors and vendors. The temple staff or security contractors will be checking the following at entrances:
- Indoors, masks must be worn at all times, except when leading services from the bimah.
- Outdoors, masks are to be worn when there are large gatherings.
- Food and drink
- Indoors, no food or drink can be served for temple functions.
- Outdoors, serving food and drink is okay (just avoiding crowding around areas where food is served).
- Indoor capacity is not limited except as required by school regulations if participants are mindful of the setting and situation.
- Outdoor capacity is not limited except as required by school regulations or by an off-site location.
- Religious School – Religious School guidelines permit students to enter the building without showing a negative Covid test or proof of vaccination when they are attending religious school.
- Nursery School – Nursery School guidelines include reporting, quarantine and return-from-travel guidelines consistent with OSSE regulations and DC Health recommendations.
Social Hall Rentals
- The TSWRJ is not providing their Kiddush Luncheon program at this time.
- Members (and guests) will be:
- Responsible for notifying their family and guests about the temple’s Covid entry requirements and masking rules.
- Required to wear masks, except when eating.
- Responsible for following the temple’s Covid-19 safety guidelines
- Hiring all staffing needed to support their event, for setup through cleanup. (This is not a policy change, but it will be enforced).
- Facilities staff will:
- Set-up tables and chairs per plan.
- Be available for problem solving such as temperature control, cleaning spills or clogs.
- Facilities staff will not: Go into the social hall during celebrations except to solve a problem as needed.
- Security staff will:
- Check Covid safety documents at the door and will need to adhere to our policies.
- Monitor mask-wearing outside of the social hall and kindly remind people to mask-up if they are not wearing them.
*There may be functions for which the indoor test requirement is waived. In these cases, the temple community will be made aware of the change and indoor physical distancing will be provided.
Dear Sinai Community:
Spring with its promise of renewal seems doubly hopeful this year. As more and more people get the COVID vaccine, we can feel our frozen lives begin to melt. This is an exciting time in a lot of ways, but it also remains a challenging time. We are reaching out with an update of how we are gradually, yet cautiously, making a return to in-person activity at the temple.
Over the past four weeks, our clergy have been leading Friday night services together from the sanctuary and Bet Am while the congregation has joined from home via Zoom. This Saturday morning, we will begin holding b’nei mitzvah services in-person with limited attendance in the Bet Am. We are doing so within the guidelines set by the District of Columbia:
- a maximum of 30 attendees (25% capacity) in addition to the clergy and staff,
- everyone is required to wear a mask and complete a health screening before entry,
- household clusters will be seated at least six feet apart, and
- singing aloud will be significantly curtailed.
While we know some members of the congregation will be pleased with this development, we appreciate that others will want us to open up more, or less. Indeed, we know that the rules have been changing very quickly and at times we have opted for a more cautious approach than public guidelines allow. But we have always and will continually consult the D.C. rules and medical experts as we update our policies. We know these changes can be confusing and disruptive. We hear all of your concerns and share the frustration that we are not yet where we want to be. However, we hope you understand that the pace of the changes reflects the complications of myriad new requirements and precautions, technological and building challenges, and more.
For now, most of us will continue with virtual Shabbat services and other temple activities, while our clergy and small groups of life cycle celebrants return to the Bet Am.
As we slowly start the reopening process, we face an extra layer of challenges stemming from the renovation of the main sanctuary. The months-long work is expected to begin any day and will make our largest indoor worship space unavailable until Rosh HaShanah. We look forward to the day when we return to worship and gathering in much larger numbers with the beautiful new sanctuary to match our congregational renewal.
High Holy Days
We have also begun to plan for the special challenge of the High Holy Days. While we expect to have some form of in-person gathering for these services we anticipate that D.C. pandemic limitations will continue to place serious restrictions on the number of people who can attend. Therefore, we are planning a hybrid of live services with in-person attendance and Zoom or other streaming capability to meaningfully engage the majority of our members virtually. If the government restrictions allow more in-person attendance, we will adjust accordingly.
Of course, we are continually considering ways to further re-open. Our clergy, board, and other lay volunteers are working on plans to further expand in-person Shabbat services, classes, and meetings over the coming months.
We are aware of the personal burden we each carry from this difficult time. We have lost so much. The reopening that is happening around us can be a reminder of those losses. For some this may be an anxious time. As always, our clergy is here for you.
We are so looking forward to seeing you in person again. Soon. Until then, wishing you good health, vaccine appointments, and a joyous Spring.
Rabbi Jonathan Roos
Temple Sinai Religious School began the 5781 school year fully online in mid-October. As we considered how both to maintain and create a space where Significance, Belonging, and Fun were the top priorities, we also thought about:
- What local and federal regulations were as it relates to COVID-19, and
- What the Temple Sinai COVID Advisory Group suggested and supported as it relates to public health guidance and wisdom to keep our community safe,
- What is developmentally responsive for our TSRS students at all ages, and
- How our programming could best support and strengthen families during this unique time.
We wondered: what is it that children and teens need from their synagogue community during a crisis in the world? Religious education is important, and faith development is a lifelong endeavor, but how a religious community responds to an acute crisis had us asking: how do we create a ‘tiny temple’ for our kids? We knew that in cultivating programing for the 2020-2021 year, we needed to create a space that was a bet midrash (house of learning), but also a bet t’filah (house of prayer) and bet k’nesset (house of gathering).
Our 2nd-10th grade programs have adapted to be responsive to this moment and are enrolled at about 80%. Our traditional Kindergarten and 1st grade programs are meeting this year through periodic “in-a-box” experiences (holidays for K, monthly for 1st grade). These are curated by our educators and supported with prerecorded video and live Zoom content. Most of all, in the spirit of our ‘tiny temple’ for K-12 participants, worship and gathering are interwoven into our programs – in both religious school specific spaces and across Temple Sinai programming. Finally, TSRS continues to strive to support all Temple Sinai families with children in grades K-12 to connect, find meaning and access, and participate in their temple during these ongoing days of distance.
For more information about TSRS as the pandemic persists, visit our online school lobby, and connect to all of our classrooms and learning spaces. It’s a fun place to hang out for a bit – but you’ll need to bring your own coffee. 😊