WINNIPEG — For the forth year in row, the Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education’s Gray Academy has seen an increase in enrolment.
“Our growth is a testament to the quality of our product and the excellence of our teachers,” said head of school and CEO Rory Paul. “The Gray Academy is the school of choice for our Jewish community.”
With just under 625 students this year, enrolment is up almost 10 per cent over 2009.
In addition, Paul said, the school has a 97 per cent retention rate of students who attended last year. The kindergarten to Grade 12 school, he noted, opened three new classrooms – one each at the kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 levels – to accommodate the additional student numbers.
“Our attendance is above projections,” he said. “We still have a waiting list, but it is wonderful that we were able to take some children off the waiting list.”
Half the new students are from recently arrived families, primarily from Israel, while the others are local children new to the Gray Academy, Paul said.
Gray Academy is also hosting three foreign students (from Brazil and Mexico), with a fourth expected to start in February. The students are housed with local Jewish families.
Only about 50 per cent of the students pay full tuition, Paul said. The BJE has a sliding scale based on family income and the number of students per family enrolled in the school. He acknowledged the generous financial support of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, which helps pay for students who can’t afford the full tuition, and he added that all private schools in Manitoba receive provincial government funding accounting for about 70 per cent of their needs.
Winnipeg has also been home, for more than 30 years, to two Hebrew bilingual kindergarten to Grade 6 programs in the public school system. The outlook is not quite as positive for them as for Gray Academy.
In north Winnipeg, Margaret Park School, which houses the original Hebrew bilingual program, has an enrolment of just 38 children this year (at its peak 20 years ago, the program numbered about 180 students), and it is beginning to be phased out. Principal Cynthia Dutton reported that this is the last year for the kindergarten class – just four children were enrolled – and each year, there will be one less grade offered.
“We feel good about our program this year, and we will do our best for our remaining students as long as they are with us,” she said.
The enrolment is also decreasing at the Hebrew bilingual program at Brock Corydon Elementary School in south Winnipeg. For years, the program at Brock Corydon was filled to capacity with about 180 students. However, enrolment dropped to 136 in 2010, and to 122 last year. This year, there are about 100 students, 15 of them in kindergarten.
Part of the problem for Brock Corydon is that many immigrant families are settling in areas of the city outside the Winnipeg 1 School Division catchment area, which Brock Corydon is part of. Margaret Park School is part of the Seven Oaks School Division.
One problem facing both Hebrew bilingual programs is that most of the Jewish immigrants who have come to Winnipeg in recent years are from Israel, and the Hebrew-speaking families are choosing to enrol their children in public schools. They don’t see the need to have their children attend Hebrew-language programs.