Lori Binder, the head of school and CEO of the Gray Academy of Jewish Education in Winnipeg, is upbeat about the 2017-18 school year, after graduating its largest class in history and seeing the families of 21 students move away.
Taking into consideration last spring’s Grade 12 graduating class of 46 – the largest in the school’s history – and the loss of 21 students, whose families moved out of Winnipeg in the summer (as compared to just 10 students who left the city the year before), Binder reports that 466 students have enrolled in the current school year. That includes the largest full-day junior kindergarten enrolment in the school’s history.
“With a retention rate of 92 per cent and 83 new students in both elementary and high school this year, it is clear that our community is committed to Jewish education,” Binder says.
“We couldn’t be more grateful. Our school community is fortunate to have over 30 parent ambassadors who work closely with our admissions department to support recruitment and retention. And our junior kindergarten numbers have quadrupled in size over the past two years.”
The head of school adds that Gray Academy’s international program, now in its eighth year, has continued to draw students to the school – two from Brazil and one from Mexico – this year. The school’s international program has made it the only Jewish day school in North America with a homestay program.
Binder also highlighted some new initiatives at the school. With virtually every student already having their own computers and other electronic devices, Binder notes, the concept of a dedicated computer lab is outdated.
“With generous grants from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and our parent association, we have moved to the cloud,” she says.
“Our junior kindergarten to Grade 2 students have tablets in their classroom, and Grade 3 and 4 students share Chromebooks. We are thrilled that every student in Grades 5-8 have their own Chromebooks. High school students bring their own devices to school and there is a lending program for anyone in need of a device.”
With the closing of two computer labs, the spaces have been reconstituted as a wellness studio and a multimedia lab for filmmaking, digital editing and design.
Binder also spoke of a new pilot program over Sukkot, in which 40 JK-Grade 6 students, accompanied by eight high school student councillors, celebrated the first two days of Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah at Congregation Shaarey Zedek and Congregation Etz Chayim – Winnipeg’s two largest congregations.
Late last month, Gray Academy co-hosted the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Competition, one of the largest high school public speaking tournaments in the world, with more than 140 students participating from around the globe.
“This is an exciting time in the history of the school and we are looking forward to the future,” Binder says.
The Hebrew bilingual program at Brock Corydon Public School is also continuing its upward trajectory. A total of 217 students enrolled in the program this fall, up slightly from the year before and up considerably from the 173 students who attended three years ago. Enrolment dropped to a low of 122 in the 2012-13 school year.
The program, the only public school Hebrew bilingual program in North America, provides half-day Hebrew instruction and half-day regular classes.
The school also has 100 non-Jewish students. The two groups come together to joint in celebrating both Jewish and Christian holidays, as well as for other school activities.