Zareinu Educational Centre has found a new home beginning in the 2016-17 school year.
Zareinu, which is geared to children with physical and developmental challenges, will be housed in the north campus of Leo Baeck Day School on Atkinson Avenue in the Bathurst and Centre streets area of Thornhill. Zareinu will vacate the premises it has occupied for 15 years at the Sephardic Kehilah Centre.
Altogether, six classrooms – five for students, one for administrative staff – have been set aside for Zareinu, said Eric Petersiel, head of school at Leo Baeck’s north campus.
Petersiel described the move as a win-win for both educational institutions. “We had some additional space in our Atkinson campus and they had a need,” he said.
Making room for Zareinu gives a practical edge to Leo Baeck’s mandate of teaching tikkun olam. Having the Zareinu youngsters in the school will facilitate interactions between the students, and demonstrate Jewish unity and Jewish community, Petersiel stated.
“Sharing space with Zareinu will be wholeheartedly embraced by students and faculty at Leo Baeck. It presents an opportunity for our students to practise what we preach, to work with and support children every day who have developmental challenges,” said Petersiel.
“We have long sought to have Zareinu housed in a world class school facility, so this is a great step forward for us. It also allows us to make our academic and therapeutic services accessible to the whole Toronto Jewish community,” said Tony Lipsey, Zareinu’s head of school.
Zareinu, in operation for 25 years, provides children “a unique environment that combines an adapted general and Jewish education together with required therapies and treatments under one roof,” Zareinu states.
The rent paid by Zareinu will also provide a financial shot in the arm for Leo Baeck, which is expecting a drop in enrolment in the fall. For the 2015-16 school year, the school was home to about 350 youngsters but Petersiel expects enrolment to decline by 10 per cent in the school year ahead, continuing a long slow trend that has become clear over the last few years.
He attributed the decline to demographic shifts in the neighbourhood, with families moving farther north, and to the cost of tuition, which is $14,700 per student per year.
Although tuition is only one expense, coupled with other items, “it’s expensive to live Jewishly,” Petersiel stated.
Representatives for Zareinu were unable to comment by The CJN’s deadline.