TORONTO — Leo Baeck Day School has announced a tuition subsidy of up to $5,000 per student to middle-income families who find the cost of day school daunting, but don’t qualify for tuition subsidies.
The one-year pilot project, dubbed AlephBaeck, will be available for 40 to 60 new students entering the school’s Thornhill campus in September.
The first of its kind at a Jewish day school in Ontario, it will be funded by a one-time gift from an anonymous donor.
Day school affordability is “a major issue,” Eric Petersiel, head of school, told The CJN.
At the North American Jewish Day School conference Feb. 3 to 5, which Petersiel attended in Washington, D.C., tuition affordability was “a topic of every conversation,” he said.
“Jewish day school gets better and better, and fewer people can afford it,” Petersiel added.
According to Petersiel, in Canada, only Montreal has a program that helps middle-income families with Jewish day school tuition. It’s a community-wide program, he said.
Leo Baeck, Toronto’s only Reform day school, is defining “middle income” as between $150,000 and $250,000 for parents with one child. If parents have two children at the school, middle income rises to between $200,000 and $300,000; then to between $250,000 and $350,000 for families with three or more children at the school.
Families can receive the full $5,000 in their child’s third year if they commit to three years at the school. If they take the amount in the first year, it drops to $3,000, and $4,000 if they take it in the second year.
Petersiel noted that families who fall below the $150,000 threshold remain eligible for subsidies, but these come from the school's separate "operational budget", he said.
AlephBaeck is debuting in Thornhill, because the school has a higher percentage of middle-income families there than it does at its branch on Arlington Avenue, south of Eglinton Avenue, Petersiel said.
The program is for new students entering nursery, junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, or grades 1 or 2.
For the past five years, Petersiel said, the school has been following up to see why some parents inquire about the school, but don’t choose it. “Finances being the number 1 reason has risen threefold in the last five years alone,” he said.
Tuition for all-day preschool for the 2013-2014 year is $13,900.
“The more students in the school, the lesser the burden on everyone,” Petersiel said.
While the school population has dropped this year by about 10 per cent in Thornhill, there are 100 new students at the south campus, and a combined total of 915 students at both campuses.
“Because we’ve grown,” Petersiel said, “we have been able to keep [next year’s tuition] increase under three per cent.”
For further information, go to alephbaeck.ca