Mallary Alcheck

Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School
Palo Alto, Californi
Mallary Alcheck, Mom and Volunteer

It Would Have Been Enough

It was 9:00pm on September 8th when the email came from our Head of School. Our waiver had been granted and we were one of a handful of schools in Santa Clara County that would be allowed to reopen. We had spent the summer in town hall meetings going over what the reopening plan looked like. After months in relative isolation, my husband and I decided that in-person school was worth the risk for our three kids who were entering K, 2nd and 4th grades this year.

We were nervous but heard all about the classroom layouts, mask wearing, HVAC improvements and other COVID protocols that the school had put in place. Their dedication and consistent communication with us brought some relief to the anxiety that this crisis has imposed on families worldwide. When I got that email, I knew the school was ready, but I was still filled with a mix of excitement, gratitude and worry.

Being at a Jewish day school, there is a lot of focus on Jewish holidays and translating their meaning into our lives today. During one of our most important holidays, Passover, the kids learn about the concept of Dayenu, which roughly translates from Hebrew to “it would have been enough”. Passover tells the story of the Jews who fled enslavement in Egypt in pursuit of freedom. The idea of Dayenu is that each thing God did to help the Jews as they fled would have been enough. And when we retell the story and count our blessings, we remind our children that even one gift is worthy of appreciation and certainly a multitude should not be taken for granted.

It would have been enough to see all the teachers and staff taking social distancing seriously. And it would have been enough to see chairs and pop-up tents set up in the parking lot for outdoor instruction. It would have been enough to see the kids playing tag with pool noodles, helping to keep them 6’ apart. And it would have been enough to see the X’s painted on the lunch tables, instructing kids where to sit at a safe distance. But what turned my jitters into joy was the enthusiasm and excitement that was palpable on the first day of school drop off. Teachers and staff were waiting outside, and even with their masks on, you could see their smiles radiating through. Despite the long hours, logistical challenges, and health and safety concerns, the positive approach and can-do attitudes of everyone from the head of facilities to the head of school, has made the return to campus joyful. And they continue to bring that energy to school every day. By approaching this situation as a challenge to be solved instead of a problem that couldn’t be tackled, the Hausner team has taught my kids the most important lesson of all. Often in life, you can’t control your circumstance, but you can choose how to respond to it.

Having access to quality education, that would have been enough. But to send all three of my kids to their classrooms each morning and see their smiling faces when I pick them up at the end of the day, well that’s more than I could have hoped for.