TORONTO — The Leo Baeck Day School announced last week that its south campus will move from Holy Blossom Temple to the building that is now Arlington Middle School, on the west side of Cedarvale Park, in September 2012.
Arlington Middle School [Frances Kraft photo]
The largest Reform Jewish day school in North America – with 375 students at Holy Blossom and 510 at its north campus in Thornhill – has entered into an agreement of sale and is currently in a period of due diligence, head of school Eric Petersiel told The CJN.
In a June 17 e-mail to parents, Petersiel and Laurie Davis, president of the 37-year-old school, wrote that they expect the sale to close Aug. 24, barring unforeseen serious issues.
The Toronto District School Board building is being purchased through the Toronto Lands Corporation, a subsidiary of the TDSB, which agreed to the sale June 14.
The TDSB had decided to close the 90,000-square-foot 40-year-old building, which is 1.89 kilometres from Holy Blossom, and modify four surrounding schools to accommodate the middle school grades, the e-mail said.
Petersiel told The CJN that the projected cost to Leo Baeck to buy and renovate Arlington would be less than the original proposed redevelopment that was to have been included as part of renovation plans at Holy Blossom.
“We’re quite confident that the financing will have minimal impact on our school,” he said, adding that there may be a “modest increase” in tuition. Annual fees for full day students are $12,100, and will increase to $12,900 in the fall.
Renovations at Arlington are expected to begin in September and continue for a year while students remain at Holy Blossom.
Although Petersiel said he believes a religious Jewish day school is best served in a synagogue environment, Holy Blossom, where Leo Baeck has been a tenant for 19 years, has “a lack of adequate play space, a lack of room for potential growth and a lack of outdoor and indoor play facilities.” As well, he noted, its 24,000 square feet of space is significantly smaller than Arlington.
The new school will include large computer and science labs, six dedicated rooms for performing, a double gymnasium, a multi-purpose chapel/auditorium and numerous outdoor facilities in the park.
Mark Anshan, president of Holy Blossom, said the synagogue is “delighted for Leo Baeck. We think it’s an amazing opportunity for them… We support them fully, and will continue to support them and to see them as close and important partners.”
Holy Blossom is still going ahead with its renewal project, but its scope and nature will be different, Anshan told The CJN.
In an e-mail to congregants last Friday, Anshan wrote that all of the synagogue’s major donors have “strongly reaffirmed their commitment. As well, he added, “with $18.7 million raised thus far, and with the costs of the project expected to significantly decrease” without Leo Baeck as part of it, “we are now actually closer to reaching the 85% of our total costs threshold than we were before.”
Holy Blossom’s architects, Diamond and Schmitt, are reworking their plans, which include a central atrium a restored sanctuary, a new larger family chapel, and a renovated social hall, Anshan wrote.
The school facilities, which have been shared in the past, will continue to be used for Holy Blossom’s supplementary, nursery and Hebrew schools. Other uses are also being considered, Anshan said.
An information meeting for Leo Baeck parents is scheduled for June 27, and a fall gathering is in the works for Holy Blossom congregants, with details to be sent over the summer.