Vaughan school to close

Leo Baeck is fourth Jewish say school to con­sol­i­date in two years

Thornhill Post - - News -

The re­cent an­nounce­ment of plans to close Leo Baeck Day School’s north cam­pus in Vaughan at the end of the school year has mem­bers of the com­mu­nity con­cerned for the fu­ture of both their chil­dren and sim­i­lar pri­vate schools in the area.

Si­t­u­ated within the Kimel Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, Leo Baeck has be­come the lat­est in a string of pri­vate Jewish schools to close in the area and fol­lows in the foot­steps of Ta­nen­baumCHAT, an­other school within the same com­mu­nity cen­tre that was forced to close its doors just last year.

“This is a very sad time for our com­mu­nity,” said Lisa Dack, pres­i­dent of the school’s board of di­rec­tors. “Leo Baeck is the fourth Jewish day school to con­sol­i­date in a two-year pe­riod.”

De­clin­ing en­rol­ment has been an is­sue. The Vaughan cam­pus has only 14 chil­dren cur­rently reg­is­tered in their preschool pro­gram, which is vi­tal for the devel­op­ment of a school as it feeds all of the later grades in fu­ture years. Ac­cord­ing to Dack, the de­crease in en­rol­ment is the re­sult of a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors.

“Ris­ing hous­ing prices and ex­penses cou­pled with ris­ing tu­ition make it more than many fam­i­lies can take on,” said Dack, “es­pe­cially fam­i­lies with mul­ti­ple chil­dren.”

Marni Her­skovits, an area res­i­dent with a son in Grade 3 and a daugh­ter in Grade 5 at Leo Baeck’s Vaughan cam­pus, says she first be­gan to no­tice a change in en­rol­ment num­bers when the prov­ince started pro­vid­ing free full-day kin­der­garten for chil­dren.

“What I heard from many par­ents pre­vi­ously is that they had planned to go to pub­lic school for Grade 1, when full days would be free, but once they had ex­pe­ri­enced the day school sys­tem, they were so en­am­oured with the ex­pe­ri­ence that there was no go­ing back,” she said. “Once full-day kin­der­garten be­came free, those fam­i­lies that may have tried out Jewish day school never opted to any­more.”

Many of the pub­lic schools in the area have also be­come vi­able op­tions for fam­i­lies that are con­sid­er­ing both the qual­ity of the ed­u­ca­tion be­ing pro­vided and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing cost, with some pub­lic schools in York Re­gion even of­fer­ing He­brew-lan­guage classes.

“When you have strong pub­lic schools in the area that are free, it be­comes harder to make the ar­gu­ment to pay the high price tag of Jewish day school,” said Her­skovits.

Al­though Leo Baeck Day School plans to of­fer free trans­porta­tion to its south cam­pus in an ef­fort to keep stu­dents in the fold and ease their tran­si­tion, par­ents like Her­skovits are still weigh­ing the op­tions. Her fam­ily is lean­ing to­ward send­ing the chil­dren to the south cam­pus, but they have some reser­va­tions about the traf­fic in the city.

“We want to stay with Leo Baeck, as we feel it’s the best school­ing op­tion for our kids,” she said. “But we are also con­cerned about the idea of such a long com­mute ev­ery day.”

Even with the depar­ture of the Leo Baeck Day School, the Kimel Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre will con­tinue to serve as a hub for the Jewish com­mu­nity that will house ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams, day camps, sup­ple­men­tary schools and other or­ga­ni­za­tions. Its co-or­di­na­tors are con­fi­dent that de­mand still ex­ists for Jewish day schools.

“We re­cently worked on a land­mark phil­an­thropic ini­tia­tive to re­duce tu­ition and in­crease en­rol­ment at Ta­nen­baumCHAT high school,” said Dan Held, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the UJA Fed­er­a­tion’s Ju­lia And Henry Kos­chitzky Cen­tre for Jewish Ed­u­ca­tion. “We have seen a 70 per cent in­crease in en­rol­ment for Grade 9 this Septem­ber, and 150 new stu­dents are at­tend­ing the school who oth­er­wise would have gone to pub­lic schools.”

How­ever, con­cerns re­main that the long-term con­se­quences for the com­mu­nity could be dire.

“Jewish day school is a cor­ner­stone of in­still­ing Jewish val­ues and em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of those val­ues,” Her­skovits said. “I fear that the next gen­er­a­tion will lose that con­nec­tion to what it means to be Jewish.” –– Kevin Scott

I fear that the next gen­er­a­tion will lose that con­nec­tion to what it means to be Jewish.”

Marni Her­skovits, a par­ent at Leo Baeck Day School’s north cam­pus

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.