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Persian New Year, Mental Health and Wellness Support, Note from PA, Social Worker, School Newsletter

Topics covered in this post:

  1. Persian New Year

  2. School Closure

  3. Mental Health and Wellness Support

  4. Note from Parents' Association President

  5. Staffing Update - Social Worker

  6. School Newsletter

  7. Upcoming March Events

  8. Upcoming April Events


1. Persian New Year

To all in the JICS community who celebrate Nowruz, NOWRUZ PIROUZ!

Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendars. Typically, before the arrival of Nowruz, family members gather around the Haft-sin table and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally, the Haft-sin (seven things beginning with the letter sin (س)) are:

• Sabze – wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish

• Samanu – sweet pudding made from wheat germ

• Persian olive

• Vinegar

• Apple

• Garlic

• Sumac


2. School Closure

Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and we are deeply grateful to the thousands of healthcare workers who are on the front lines helping their communities.

As instructed by the Ontario Government, the JICS Lab School and all independent schools will be closed until Monday, April 6, 2020. The University of Toronto is now closed to the general public and the JICS administrative team have been instructed to work from home. You can reach us at:

With information about COVID-19 changing daily, we need to be flexible and to anticipate the unexpected. Communication regarding learning activities designed for the children during the school closure will be shared with each cohort beginning on Monday, March 23.


3. Mental Health and Wellness Support: Parenting in the Coronavirus Age

These are uncertain and stressful times for everyone around the world right now. For those of us who are parents, there is the added concern of wanting to shield our children from the anxiety we are ourselves feeling, while at the same time provide them with the information they need to be protected from the virus. Some of you may be wondering how to have conversations with your children about what is going on, or how to help them cope with their worries.

How to Talk to Children about COVID-19

This recent article from the Globe and Mail offers helpful suggestions for talking to children about the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It recommends such tips as:

  • Manage one’s own anxiety first – showing children how you cope with your own worries is good way to model resilience

  • Meet children at their level - this is a good rule thumb for how to respond in a developmentally appropriate way to any challenging topic, by listening to children and letting their questions guide what information is being shared

  • Always be truthful – answer questions honestly and directly, but without offering more information than is being asked for

  • Provide a sense of control – empower children by teaching them what they can do keep themselves and others healthy

  • Make the best of a new normal, by using this an opportunity to create new memories, and spending time with your children

Alyson Schafer, (parenting expert and JICS friend) writes her thoughts on what children need most from us right now ​in this helpful article, emphasizing the importance of filtering and processing any information shared with children and helping them to feel safe. She reminds us that our attitudes are infectious and that children are watching us for clues as to how they should be feeling. Extra cuddles are highly recommended as needed!

CBC KidsNews has created some videos to help answer some specific questions:

Look for the Helpers

Adding to these suggestions, the wisdom of Fred Rogers reminds us when talking to children in times of tragedy or crisis to “look for the helpers". Highlighting all the amazing people who are working on the frontlines of this current situation (e.g. the health care workers who are helping those who are ill; the scientists leading the research into vaccines or testing kits; the politicians who are working to ensure there is financial support; the supermarket employees keeping the shelves stocked with food) can serve to comfort them with the knowledge that the adults have a plan, people are helping, and things are going to be okay. Pointing out to children examples of altruism, kindness, and social solidarity is another way to build a sense hope and optimism to counter the unsettling reality of school closures and social distancing.

Managing Anxiety

It is completely understandable and normal to feel some anxiety right now, and it’s important to acknowledge this for ourselves and for our children. Again, turning to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, we are reminded to go easy on ourselves and support each other. Adapting the ideas shared in this article to children, we offer these thoughts:

  • Recognize that it’s OK to be worried – accepting that there are things beyond our control is an important step to coping with the current reality.

  • Stay in touch – call, text, email friends and family. Pick up the phone – stay close emotionally. Offer to get groceries for a neighbour. Help your children to stay connected to friends and family through the phone and video calls as well.

  • Keep a routine – Many children thrive best with routines. Try to give these days at home some structure, including regular healthy meals, exercise, time outdoors, and regular sleeping times.

  • Keep things in perspective – avoiding negativity, and focusing on the positives, such as ‘the majority of people recover from this and this will be over in a few months’ will help you and your children to remain calm and optimistic.

  • Avoid going down an internet rabbit hole – it’s fine to go online to get a quick update, but it’s easy to get lost in and overwhelmed by the coverage of this pandemic. Set aside a specific time to check through the day and stick to reputable sources of information. If your child is old enough to read the news, curate what they are exposed to and have a conversation about it.

  • Know when to seek help – if you find yourself or your children having trouble coping, you may need to talk with a professional.

Social Work Support for JICS Children with Laura Gordin

If you are concerned that your child is experiencing an unmanageable level of anxiety, we are offering the services of Laura Gordin, our school social worker, during the days she would normally be at school: Monday March 23 and March 30. Please feel free to email Laura if you would like to seek her help or schedule a time to have a phone call. We also recommend getting in touch with your pediatrician for further assistance.

Try this calming “square breathing exercise” with your children, recommended by Laura:

Isolation Mood Lifters

Here are some more ideas to boost children’s morale and lift everyone’s moods:

  • Practice Gratitude– Talk together about what or who you are grateful for in your lives everyday.

  • Get Outside – Nothing lifts one’s mood like fresh air, sunshine, and time in nature. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or just muck about in the yard.

  • Laugh – Make time for laughter as often as possible. Read jokes together, read humorous books, watch a funny show together, or just be silly.

  • Play – Play with your children doing what they want to do. Renowned child psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Greenspan’s notion of “floor time” recognizes the important of meeting children on their level to foster their emotional security. This also serves to strengthen your relationship by showing you value what they care about and enjoy.

  • Read – Make time each day to read together. Depending on the age of your children this might be each reading your own books while snuggling, or sharing chapter book or picture books together.

  • Listen to Music – Listening to or creating music together, dancing, and singing are all great ways to relieve stress and feel better.

  • Connect – Connect with friends and family on the phone and video calls. We may be alone but we don’t have to be lonely!

For more ideas on how to cope with parenting in isolation:

We also recommend following Alyson Schafer, parenting expert, who is going to post a daily message on Twitter and Facebook for parents: @alysonschafer @AlysonSchaferParentingExpert

As Trudeau reminded us earlier this week, “The strength of our country is our capacity to come together and care for each other, especially in times of need.” The strength and kindness of our school community is a good reason to feel hopeful, and can serve as a resource for all of us. Together, we’ll get through the next few weeks or months. Know that Richard, Chriss, the teachers, and staff are with you, and please do not hesitate to reach out if you need support.


4. A Note from the President of the Parents' Association

Dear JICS Families,

We hope this note finds you and your family in good health.

While we are facing unprecedented times, I want to take a moment to thank Richard, Chriss, our faculty and staff for keeping us informed and providing us with guidance while we are all on an extended break from school.

To those members of our community who are working on the front lines and risking their own health to keep us all safe, we thank you.

As you will hear from your teacher(s) early next week, there are many activities that families can experience to support the love of learning that JICS has fostered while remaining at home. I know that many families are also sharing resources, ideas and staying connected on WhatsApp and email communities we’ve built by classroom at the beginning of the school year.

Remember to have fun too – break out the Lego and see who can build the tallest tower, do a puzzle, or put on a play!

For any members of our community who are in self-isolation and don’t have access to supplies, food or medicine, please reach out and let us know how we can help. If there is something you feel the PA could support during the next few weeks, connect with us at

Wishing you health and happiness,

Your PA Executive Team


5. Staffing News: Social Worker

As you know, with the Lab School’s ongoing quest to support the needs of the whole child and with the funding of the Parents Association, we hired Laura Gordin, a licensed social worker, in May 2019 to be a part-time social worker in the school. Laura worked with Lab School staff last spring and this year ensuring the overall mental health and wellness, social-emotional learning, and interpersonal skills of all the children, with a particular focus on the junior grades. We are happy to announce that Laura is expecting a baby and she will continue to work with us during the next two weeks as described above, her last day will be Monday, April 6, 2020. Join us in congratulating Laura and thanking her for creating a safe space to expertly and sensitively address the mental health and wellness of the JICS children.

We are delighted to introduce you to our new social worker at JICS: Ellie Lathrop, a qualified professional with over 20 years of clinical experience. Ellie has expertise in mental

health wellness and treatment, bio-psychosocial assessment, individual and family therapy, and developing and leading groups. Ellie maintains a private practice at the Toronto Counselling Centre for Teens and has worked at Women’s College Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children. Ellie will begin at JICS as soon as the school reopens and due to the success of the social work program, she will work 2 days a week, with her costs shared equally by the PA and the Lab School. Thank you, PA for your continued support. We want to take this opportunity to thank the hiring committee: Deepta Rayner, PA President; Chriss Bogert, VP; Judith Kimel, Special Ed teacher; and chair of the hiring committee, Richard Messina, Principal.


6. School Newsletter

With your children, please enjoy this beautiful next edition of the School Newsletter that reminds us all of what we value at JICS and look forward to returning to as soon as possible. Reading this would be a wonderful way to spend time together during March Break! Thanks to Krista, our Teacher Librarian, for creating this documentation of our special community:


7. Upcoming March Events (Read-athon Month)

Mon 16 - Fri 20 – March Break (week 2) School and Daycare closed.

Mon 23 – CANCELLED: Spring Term begins

Tues 24 – CANCELLED: Parent Education Event: Robbie Case Memorial Lecture with Dr. Herb Ginsberg, Columbia U. 6:00pm

Wed 25 – CANCELLED: First day of Wednesday Afternoon Program-Spring Term

Thurs 26 – POSTPONED: School-wide lice check, courtesy of the JICS Parents’ Association

Thurs 26 – CANCELLED: Parent Education Event: Robbie Case Memorial Lecture with Dr. Doug Clements, University of Denver 6:00pm

Tues 31 – POSTPONED: Grade 6 & Grade 7 Reunion “Pizza Night” to learn about transitioning to new school 3:30-5:30pm


8. Upcoming April Events

Wed 1 – POSTPONED: Gr 1 Parent Breakfast

Fri 2 – POSTPONED: Parent Ed “Coffee and Conversation” Engaging Families in Preparing JICS Students for the Future. 8:30-9:30. Room 120

Mon 6 NEW: Spring Term begins. Daycare opens at 8:00am; School opens at 8:45am

Tues 7 – Daycare Board meeting 5:30-7:00 Room 120

Wed 8 – Passover begins

Wed 8 – NEW: First day of Wednesday Afternoon Program-Spring Term

Thurs 9 – Last day of teacher candidate Winter Internship and Block 3 practicum placement in JK-Gr 6

Fri 10 – Good Friday. School & Daycare closed.

Mon 13 – Easter Monday. School & Daycare closed.

Wed 15 – Parent/Teacher Interview day

Mon 20 – PA Meeting 6:00pm

Mon 20 - Fri 24 Earth Week

Wed 22 – Fri 24 POSTPONED: International Association of Lab Schools Conference at JICS

Fri 24 – NEW: School Open (PD Day cancelled) Wed 29 – Fri 1 Gr 5 & Gr 6 Ottawa Trip (TBC)

Wed 29 – Parent/Teacher Interview day

Thurs 30 – JK Parent Breakfast (TBC)

Thurs 30 – 2nd tuition payment due (50% of balance). Make cheque payable to University of Toronto (3rd payment due September 9th).


Enjoy some of the beautiful and creative art displays in the school:




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