Community rallies to open other doors for students, parents

by Robert Levine

“Each individual student at KSA is and always has been treated as the most important person to ever pass through its halls,” says Gregg Rubenstein, president of Kehillah Schechter Academy’s board of trustees. The photograph at the top of the school’s website homepage, showing a row of grinning students posing alongside the sign bearing the school’s name projects the joy and pride in their K-8 alma mater resulting from such an approach. This enthusiasm for the Norwood school among those involved with it makes it all the more sad that, on May 15, its board of trustees announced that it had voted to make the 2013-14 school year its last. 

According to a Jewish Advocate article from May and a press release issued by the school last year, 170 students were enrolled for 2012-2013. For the academic year just ending, however, that figure dropped to 110. The Jewish Advocate reported that KSA had determined that it needed at least 82 students to confirm enrollment for next school year to keep the school running, but only 73 did so. Too few new students enrolled to take the place of graduates for the school to continue financially.

In fact, Rubenstein cites concerns about the school’s recent financial difficulties as a major reason for the drop in enrollment. At one point, the school’s debt from mortgages on its current building and its former facility in Stoughton stood at $11 million. Last year, though, the school reduced the debt to $1.7 million through contributions from community members and anonymous major donors, and refinanced the mortgage on its Norwood property. In May, KSA met a fundraising goal of $250,000—thanks in large part to a $50,000 CJP grant, said Rubenstein.

Asked what he thought South Shore families will do now, he replied, “Many are likely to go to public schools, others will go to other Jewish Day Schools and still others will find new secular private schools.” CJP will cover deposits to other Jewish schools for next academic year for families that have already paid deposits to KSA, and will also fund transportation for former KSA students attending other Jewish schools.

Rubenstein said that his children have grown from attending a Jewish day school because “[i]t has … taught them a love for Judaism and given them the skills necessary to know how to live a moral life.” Yet, alarmingly, Rubinstein cited “a general decline in the interest for a Jewish Day School education” as one factor in KSA’s falling enrollment. We can at least take pride and hope in so many people and institutions coming to the aid of KSA’s families, ensuring that the school’s closure won’t create a black hole swallowing the flame of Torah education on the South Shore.