Home Perspectives Features Toronto’s Eitz Chaim Schools to close one campus

Toronto’s Eitz Chaim Schools to close one campus

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Eitz Chaim Patricia Avenue campus. (Ron Csillag photo)

Eitz Chaim Schools in Toronto will sell one of its three campuses, merge some of its operations and raise tuition fees, in an effort to reduce its $4-million operating deficit.

In a long-awaited announcement on the streamlining of its operations, the Orthodox school said it will sell its all-boys campus on Patricia Avenue in north Toronto and move nearly 300 students in grades 2 to 8 to its Spring Farm location in Thornhill.

The two girls campuses will be merged: girls in grades 2 to 8 at the Spring Farm campus will move to join the girls at the Viewmount campus.

Grade 1 students will be incorporated into “early childhood centres” that will start at nursery, at both the Viewmount and Spring Farm campuses. Boys and girls will be in separate classes for Grade 1 and the boys will have a rebbe.

The changes are scheduled for the 2019-20 academic year. However, the school has implemented an across-the-board tuition increase of $850 per student for the upcoming school year.

Tuition currently ranges from $6,400 for morning-only pre-nursery, to $15,200 for grades 6 to 8.

“The school’s fiscal state has reached a point where operating three campuses is no longer financially viable,” said a statement on the school’s website. The projected annual deficit for next year approaches $4 million, it added.

Closing the Patricia Avenue campus will cut the deficit by one-third, Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, head of school, said in a video posted to the school’s website on June 27.

The Patricia location, just off Bathurst Street between Steeles and Finch avenues, was “once vibrant,” Rabbi Schwartz said, but is a “demographically vanishing area for us. When we had to sell a campus, it made the most sense for Patricia to be the one.”

Tuition covers less than half of education costs, Rabbi Schwartz added.

He pointed out that about 65 per cent of parents receive some level of subsidy, and that the average subsidy covers roughly 60 per cent of tuition.

The school plans to subsidize busing for students traveling both north and south.

Rabbi Schwartz said donors raised an amount “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” but it wasn’t “nearly enough.”

READ: EITZ CHAIM SCHOOLS LOOKING AT WAYS TO CUT COSTS

He said he doesn’t know what the long-term impact of the changes on teachers will be, because much depends on enrolment in the 2019-20 school year, and that won’t be known until the end of this year.

The school has offered to meet with teachers individually, or in groups. Rabbi Schwartz told The CJN that Eitz Chaim has been working closely with the Federation of Teachers in Hebrew Schools.

In his video address, Aitan Lerner, co-president of Eitz Chaim’s executive board, said maintaining three campuses was “simply not sustainable or fiscally responsible.”

The board’s decision to sell the Patricia campus “did not come quickly or easily. However painful, the decision had to be made,” Lerner said. He said Eitz Chaim is the only Orthodox day school in Toronto with three campuses.

But on the bright side, the school will maintain preschool and Grade 1 classes on each campus, “to help mitigate the difficulty of transporting young children to their respective campuses,” according to Lerner.

And “a unique benefit” of moving boys to the Spring Farm campus is its close proximity to Kollel Ohr Yosef, an institute of rabbinic study, which is right around the corner. The school will leverage its relationship with the kollel, to allow for expanded joint programming and mentorship, Lerner said.