By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
The Palisades Jewish Early Childhood Center has reopened with a newly improved infant care facility for the community.
“We have a brand-new, state-of-the-art infant center,” Rabbi Zushe Cunin, Chabad of Pacific Palisades executive director, shared with the Palisadian-Post. “There are a lot of preschools but there are very few infant centers. When we started, we didn’t know there was such a need in our community.”
Chabad of Pacific Palisades operates a preschool that has been around for 18 years—with Chana Hertzberg serving as the director for nine years. The infant center within the preschool originally opened nine years ago and now it’s expanded, Hertzberg explained to the Post.
On July 6, the infant center reopened with one child and now they have four. By August 24, they will have 10 more children returning, and the increased capacity of the space is up to nearly 30 children.
“It’s beautifully remodeled and it’s larger,” Hertzberg said.
“Everyone has to go with COVID-19 at their own pace and comfort level,” Hertzberg shared in regard to parents returning their children to the center. “Before COVID, our preschool [had] 85 students (including the infant center) and then we closed for COVID-19.”
They opened the preschool on June 15 because after parents requested them to do so, Hertzberg continued: “And we could do this because we have two and a half acres of land.”
Childcare centers are essential services that are allowed to be open, with restrictions. The school is following the COVID-19 guidelines, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, local licensing agencies and the vast network of Chabad schools around the world that the center is connected with, Cunin explained.
“The center falls under the umbrella of the Chabad organization and it’s literally worldwide,” Hertzberg said. Each place is its own entity, including its own budgets and fundraising, but they come together to share resources.
The teachers and children at PJECC helped design the infant centers with Chaya Goldberg, one of the teachers and Cunin’s daughter, leading the interior design effort, including picking out new couches.
One of the other new improvements included discarding all of the previous toys and starting from scratch, bringing in new toys with an instructional purpose, thanks to a parent donation made last year.
“Each toy is going to teach them something and engage them with interest,” Hertzberg said.
“We believe there is intentional learning at every age level, and that’s why parents keep coming back and referring friends and family,” Cunin said
There are several children who began in the infant center at 3 months old that are now in the local elementary schools, such as Marquez Charter Elementary School.
“They can trust and rely on our incredible staff, who have a high level of education,” Cunin continued. The program director in the infant center holds a Master of Education degree.
They are turning it into a STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—baby learning center.
“By having STEM activities, we want to develop communication more than the usual play, including communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity,” Hertzberg said.
All of the instruction provided in the preschool flows over to the infant center. If they have a music teacher or yoga instructor, the infant center will also get an opportunity for those resources.
“It’s a very nurturing place,” Hertzberg shared. “The teachers there love being there. Most of them work full, eight-hour shifts, and it’s a very happening place because there’s so much education going on there.”
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