MONTREAL — An official of Jewish Peoples and Peretz Schools/Bialik High School is denying that registration for the coming year is so low as to put the system’s future in doubt.
“I can categorically confirm that our registration is sufficient to have two streams for the kindergarten and two streams for Grade 7,” Jamie Ross, a member of the board of directors, told The CJN.
“We always want better enrolment than what we have, but I can state that the situation is on the upswing.”
Bialik has just under 460 students this year, including three Grade 7 classes. JPPS has about 350 students.
Ross, who has two children at JPPS, said he couldn’t provide the exact number of registrants for the coming year.
“I know there are rumours, and we are grateful for the chance to clarify [what’s going on],” he said. “But these rumours are just plain not true.”
Concern about the viability of JPPS and in particular Bialik, which is located in Côte St. Luc, has grown with the apparent interest in the English Montreal School Board’s proposed high school in that municipality.
More than 200 people attended a May 8 information meeting for Wallenberg Academy, which would be located in the former Wagar High School.
The public EMSB says it will open Wallenberg Academy in 2014, if at least 60 students sign up for Grade 7. The school is named for the Swedish diplomat credited with saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.
The board has said a Jewish heritage program is one of the supplemental concentrations being considered.
Wagar, which at one time had an overwhelmingly Jewish enrolment, closed in 2005 due to declining numbers. This is the second attempt in as many years by the EMSB to re-open the school.
Ross noted that JPPS/Bialik recently underwent a “visioning process” that has resulted in the introduction of new programs.
As announced earlier this year, JPPS will be instituting an enriched science program called S.T.I.M. (Sciences, Technologie, Ingeniérie, Mathématiques), which will be taught in French.
Bialik plans to launch an international baccalaureate program in 2014-2015 for academically motivated students in grades 7 and 8, as well as enhanced French instruction.
Tuition is also being reduced or frozen next year.
“We are responding to what the community says it wants from our schools. If we continue on the road we are on, I don’t think we have to be concerned about what other schools are doing,” Ross said.
“We have to focus on what we need to do.”
Ross, a Wagar graduate, said he felt it was important to send his children to a Jewish school and is glad he did.
“As a parent, I’m thrilled at what they [at JPPS] do. It’s thriving, nurturing. My sons come home singing Jewish songs. It’s great.”