TanenbaumCHAT has found a tenant to fill the space it vacated when it closed its Kimel campus at the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan, Ont.
RoyalCrest Academy, a private school whose current location is less than five kilometres from the Lebovic Campus, will move into the premises in September. RoyalCrest’s website states it will occupy 100,000 square feet of space in a building that is “state of the art.”
“The facility houses a beautiful art studio, drama room with stage and a state-of-the-art recording studio. Students will also have access to fully equipped science rooms, computer lab, large, brightly lit classrooms, an elementary-size gym, an outdoor baseball and soccer field, as well as an enclosed secure play area,” RoyalCrest boasts on its website.
The facilities touted by RoyalCrest were meant for students attending TanenbaumCHAT’s northern branch, which opened at the Kimel Family Education Centre on the Lebovic Campus in 2007, as well as for other Jewish educational activities.
In March 2017, students’ parents were told that the branch would cease operations at the end of the school year and that it would merge with the school’s Toronto location on Wilmington Avenue. TanenbaumCHAT said declining enrolment and the need to save money were behind the decision to consolidate operations. At the same time, the high school announced it had received two large gifts, totalling $15 million, that would allow it to cut tuition to $18,500 per year from nearly $28,000.
The school closing upset many parents and students, who protested the move. Some lamented news of a new tenant, noting Kimel’s construction was financed by funds from Jewish donors and parents’ capital fees, but the benefits were going to be enjoyed by another private school.
Last week, Jonathan Levy, TanenbaumCHAT’s head of school, said it had been seeking to fill the space in the aftermath of the closing of the Kimel branch. About half the building is being occupied by Leo Baeck Day School, but that left a large area empty.
“One of the board’s goals and the administration’s goals is to ensure not just the short-term financial sustainability of the school, but also the long-term sustainability of the school,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ll be making money, but we’ll offset the cost of the ongoing expenses.”
Levy declined to give details about the amount of rent or duration of the lease, saying the terms of the lease prevented such disclosure. RoyalCrest’s head of school was not available for comment by The CJN’s press time.
As part of the Lebovic Campus, the Kimel Family Education Centre is owned by Jewish Community Properties of Greater Toronto, which is controlled by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Steven Shulman, a senior vice-president of UJA Federation, said 1,700 Jewish community members continue to make use of the building for Jewish education.
“The Kimel Family Education Centre is the home of many Jewish identity-building experiences for young people in our community, including a day school, supplementary schools, camps and youth programs. We built this building and continue to operate it for Jewish education. Since opening the doors at Kimel, we have seen a diverse array of institutions and educators make use of this modern teaching space,” he said.
“As UJA considers Jewish education options for the future of the space, we have permitted a lease agreement between TanenbaumCHAT and RoyalCrest Academy to make use of part of the second floor. The agreement only permits use of a portion of the second floor during hours when Kimel is not being used for Jewish education. The spaces will continue to be used by supplementary schools and youth movements on weekends and evenings and by camp during the summer.”
At the time of the announcement of Kimel’s demise, the Kimel family issued a statement that said, “We are both so pleased and proud to know that, while TanenbaumCHAT on Wilmington Avenue will be strengthened by the consolidation of both campuses, the building on the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus that bears our family name will continue to do what it has always done, and that is to be the home to an exciting and eclectic array of Jewish educational options under one roof. This is an exciting time for Jewish education in the GTA, and to know that the Kimel Family Education Centre will continue to play a pivotal role in educating our next generation of leaders is tremendously gratifying to us.”
Meanwhile, Levy said applications for next year’s incoming Grade 9 class at the school on Wilmington “have been very high.”
School enrolment currently stands at 875 students, with that figure expected to top 900 next year.
In 2016-17, Kimel’s last year in operation, the school was home to 381 students, with the expectation that enrolment would continue to decline. In the same school year, 585 students were enrolled at the school’s Wilmington branch, bringing the total in both branches to 966 students.
One of the benefits of consolidating both schools in one location was the ability to offer programs that otherwise would not have been viable because of insufficient numbers, Levy said.
“We have 47 different courses for Grade 12. That’s a huge number of classes, probably the largest course offering of any Jewish high school in North America.”