In an unprecedented move for Toronto, a Jewish elementary school and a Jewish high school will begin sharing space next fall in an attempt to shore up both schools’ declining enrolments.
Starting in September, the northern branch of the Leo Baeck Day School will begin sharing space with Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s Kimel Centre, on the Lebovic Jewish Community Campus.
The move will see the Reform day school close its building on Atkinson Avenue and move the 267 students farther north. Leo Baeck head of school Eric Petersiel said enrolment had been dropping at the northern branch of the school, in part because families live closer to the Lebovic campus. “Our people are moving north. The Jewish population of non-Orthodox families doesn’t live south of [Highway] 7,” he said.
The move also fits into TanenbaumCHAT’s sustainability plan, which includes sharing its facilities with other Jewish institutions, said Tanenbaum CHAT head of school, Rabbi Lee Buckman. The city’s only pluralistic Jewish high school has also seen its enrolment decline over the last few years. Currently 966 students are enrolled in both campuses, with 585 students on the south campus and 381 students on the north campus.
“It’s a very smart use of the community’s resources. We have lots of day schools and lots of buildings… and to the extent we can collaborate, co-operate, share resources and find efficiencies, we’re using the community’s resources much more wisely,” Rabbi Buckman said.
The move is a “win-win” for both schools, he said.
Leo Baeck will have a separate entrance and operate in its own wing, but will share facilities such as the gym, library, science, arts and music rooms, Petersiel said. A new fenced-in playground for the school will also be built.
The adjacent Schwartz-Reisman Centre will provide before- and after-school care.
Having a feeder school share Tanenbaum CHAT’s facilities will help with another point in the high school’s strategic plan – to intensify recruitment of new students.
“To have a feeder school [at CHAT] will help maximize the likelihood those kids will stay in the day school system,” Rabbi Buckman said.
The multi-year agreement will save the school system “a significant amount of money,” as expenses related to the physical plant, such as security and cleaning, will be shared, said Daniel Held, executive director of UJA Federations’s Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education.
There is also a potential for sharing staff expenses, he said.
Leo Baeck’s 60,000-square-foot building on Atkinson will eventually be sold.The move will make the Lebovic campus a Jewish hub for York Region, with Bialik Day School already located there, as well as synagogues and supplementary schools, Held said.