Preschools offer taste of normalcy

PHOTO: Foundation School children explore the nature trails on the Neveh Shalom campus and notice the differences in textures between moss and bark. 

Following two years of meeting pandemic challenges, the six Jewish preschools in the Greater Portland area anticipate ongoing issues as they prepare for what they hope will be a return to normalcy in the coming school year. (See roundup of six preschools below.)
Accommodating the need for early childhood education will be a big challenge next fall according to Erika Saiers, director of early childhood education at Portland Jewish Academy. While all of the local Jewish preschools survived the pandemic, many other programs had to close. “There currently aren’t enough providers for the need, particularly at the infant/toddler level,” she says.
All the preschools report enrollment going well, with some classes (especially infant/toddler) wait-listed. Staffing to meet that need is also an issue with teacher burnout reaching all-time highs during the pandemic.
Early childhood educators also anticipate issues from children’s limited social interactions during the past two years. Most early childhood programs had to limit enrollment and shorten hours to meet social distancing and other rules. In addition, many parents worked from home and juggled child care responsibilities with work.
“I think the challenge is going to be the massive influx of children who were in private/home-based situations suddenly being thrust into group care,” says Stephanie Faddis, director of The Gan Jewish Preschool.
Gan Garrett Jewish Preschool lead teacher Lynn Dunn says the challenge will be especially pronounced for “younger children arriving to preschool without any social experience beyond siblings.”
Maayan Torah’s interim preschool director Amy Sohn says, “Some children have been battling a certain social immaturity that we attribute to not having the same amount of healthy peer interactions.”
Though still forced to adapt, children who were able to attend preschool during the pandemic reaped some benefits. 
“Children have become close with their classmates and morot (teachers) as their circles have become smaller and more tight knit,” says Foundation School Administrative Director Candace Rothstein. 
“Opening our doors in July of 2020 allowed children to go back to being children,” says PJA’s Saiers. “We wanted to bring back ‘normalcy’ for children during a very challenging time. Children were given the right to play, to inquire, to explore and be supported in a loving, encouraging environment.” 
The educators hope that the feeling of normalcy will grow in the new school year.
Asked to describe their programs in one sentence, local preschools replied:
Foundation School: We are a Jewish Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool that believes that children are creative, capable and endlessly curious. 
Gan Garrett Jewish Preschool: Where children blossom!
The Gan Preschool: We are a Reggio- and Montessori-inspired campus of joyful Jewish learning.
Maayan Torah Day School: Our preschool is a warm nurturing community 
focused on faith, family and education. 
Portland Jewish Academy: We provide welcoming and inclusive settings that recognize children’s diverse abilities, interests, needs and learning styles.
Tree of Life Montessori: A cozy in-home Jewish Montessori school in the heart of Southeast Portland.


Tzivie Greenberg, Executive Director: 
360-256-0859 |
9604 NE 126 Ave #2340, Vancouver, WA 98682

COST: Depends on attendance: half day and full day available, 2-5 days per week. Financial aid available.
AGES: 2-5
HOURS: 9 am-3 pm, with before and aftercare available.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: The Gan unites children, teachers, family and community in a positive and constructive early childhood experience. Our Jewish values drive the curriculum, environment and school culture. We model and encourage kindness, respect, compassion, confidence and responsibility. Judaism teaches that the formative years of early childhood are vitally important. A child is viewed as a seed that we nurture with the utmost care.

Stephanie Faddis, Center Director: 503-977-7850
6612 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland 97219

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Currently open; we are mostly full but accept applications year round.
COST: From $435/month for two half days to $1,310/month for five full days; financial aid available.
AGES: 12 months-5 years
HOURS: 8:30 am-3:30 pm; early care 8-8:30 am and after care 3:30-5 pm available.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: At The Gan (Hebrew for garden), we believe children can blossom in a carefully planned setting, surrounded by caring teachers and peers. Our play-based setting provides an experiential and intentional approach to learning. We foster enthusiasm, responsibility, creativity and curiosity, with children encouraged to express themselves through words, movement, art, play and other natural modes of expression. We help children develop the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for a successful and meaningful life. 


Interim Preschool Director Amy Sohn: 
503-245-5568 |
2 Touchstone Dr., Lake Oswego 97035

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Ongoing for preschool
ACCREDITATION: Cognisa; AdvancEd
COST: $12,750 a year; financial aid available.
AGES: 18 months-4 years
HOURS: 8:30 am-3:30 pm; before and aftercare available. 
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Jewish children deserve a warm and nurturing atmosphere that fosters a love for learning and curiosity about the world around them. Maayan offers values-based education and inspires children to love Judaism and mitzvot. Our rich academic program builds inner self-worth and positive character traits/middot. Maayan features academic rigor and excellence in both secular and Judaic studies. Maayan’s student-engaged learning environment is just what children need to help them reach their personal and academic potential. 

Candace Rothstein (Administrative Director):
503-293-7307 |
2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland 97239
COST: Contact for more info; financial aid available.             
AGES: 12 months-5 years
HOURS: 8 am-5 pm
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: The Foundation School, based on the ideals and traditions of the Jewish faith and open to all, is dedicated to providing exceptional early childhood education. We encourage the development of each child’s creativity, curiosity and character through age-appropriate practices. By valuing play as a child’s natural way of learning, our qualified and experienced teachers encourage the growth of the total child: intellectual, social, emotional, physical and spiritual.

Director Erika Saiers: 503-535-3536 | |
6651 SW Capitol Highway, Portland 97219

COST: $610-$1,990 per month; financial aid available.
AGES: 6 weeks-5 years
HOURS: 8 am-5 pm with half-day or full-day preschool options.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: We believe children learn best through meaningful play, exploration and inquiry-based learning. Our child-centered program integrates social and emotional development, cognitive skills, language and literacy, mathematical and scientific exploration, Hebrew language and Jewish life, art and music, and fine and gross motor development. It is our conviction that children are capable and independent, and this is reflected across all  developmental domains. Children are viewed as thinkers, reflecting on their world, and as empathetic individuals.

Ariel Cohn, Owner and Lead Guide
4214 SE Stark St., Portland

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Rolling admissions, with several spots open for fall.
ACCREDITATION: We are a licensed childcare facility. Ariel holds an AMI Montessori teaching certificate and a master’s degree in education. 
COST: $700-$1,280 per month depending on schedule; financial aid available. 
AGES: 2.5-6, including kindergarten
HOURS: 8:30 am-3:30 pm with half-day and full-day options; aftercare from 3:30-5 pm.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: At Tree of Life Montessori in Southeast Portland, we strive to connect children and their families to Jewish traditions and culture, as well as to each other. With the traditional Montessori curriculum as our structure, we celebrate holidays and honor our Jewish heritage and beliefs through weekly Shabbat rituals, thematic art projects, sensorial activities and community gatherings.


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