Merged Schechter school opens
Students slammed their locker doors shut and hurried to their next classes on Tuesday, shuffling through the hallways of the new Metropolitan Solomon Schechter Academy in Teaneck, as some adapted to a completely new school and others to a lot of new faces.
Solomon Schechter High School of New York and Solomon Schechter Regional High School in Teaneck completed their merger last week, just in time for the new school year. The approximately 60 students from the New York campus joined with 60 students from the Teaneck school, as well as new and transfer students who said they were excited about the expanded opportunities of the combined Schechter school.
"People are calling and saying, ‘Now that you’re not such a small school, can we think about it again?’" said Rhonda Rosenheck, principal of Metropolitan Schechter Academy.
David Beizer of Forest Hills, N.Y., Eythan Savitsky of Manhattan, and Matthew Pillet of Englewood Cliffs acclimate to the new Schechter Metropolitan.
The school is still at the former Schechter Regional’s campus at the Jewish Center of Teaneck, where it rents space. This caused some rearrangment of offices and made for a tight squeeze for some students.
"The New York students are used to being in very tight quarters; our New Jersey students are used to having a little more breathing room," said Rosenheck, whose former office is now a seminar room.
The first day of school, scheduled for Sept. 11, was actually pushed back two days because of delays in moving the New York school’s equipment.
"We were not ready to teach in a good environment. We had to make sure the spaces were ready for learning," Rosenheck said.
Once the year officially began, on Sept. 13, students from both schools began adjusting to their new surroundings.
"It’s similar to Schechter Manhattan," said 11th-grader David Beizer of Forest Hills, N.Y. "The commute is a little bit long but I have time to sleep and do my homework."
A bus picks up Beizer from a synagogue in his neighborhood and brings him to Teaneck. The same bus brings him back to New York City, and he then takes the subway the rest of the way home.
Schechter vans pick up students from Forest Hills, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Riverdale, Rockland County, and three to four routes in areas of New Jersey, said Rosenheck. A group of parents spent the summer working out the transportation system, she said, and it has paid off for Schechter, which, she said, is now attracting new students from New York with its user-friendly commute.
The biggest challenge facing both sets of students is merging their school governments, Beizer said. The New York school had a student-council format with representatives from each grade. The Teaneck campus had a town-meeting format where every "resident" got a vote.
"We’re combining the two to create an amalgam of student leadership," said Beizer, who was the 11th-grade representative at the New York school and a member of the transition committee. "Combining the two is a little bit of an obstacle, but one we can overcome."
Rosenheck agreed that combining the governments presents a challenge, but said it is a welcome one. She had been concerned that there would be feelings of competitiveness among the students, but she has yet to see evidence of that.
Because of the increased size of the student body, Schechter Metropolitan is able to offer more to the students this year than the two schools had been able to before, said Jay Dewey, the school’s director. This translates to more AP courses, more social activities, and more sports. This is the first year Schechter has offered tennis, Dewey said.
As for Schechter New York’s faculty, everyone was given the opportunity to transfer to the new school, Dewey said, but an unspecified number decided to work elsewhere because of the longer commute.
The New York school had formerly occupied several floors of a residential apartment building on 91st Street and Central Park West, which it rented for more than $100,000 a year. Both schools had been looking for buildings of their own.
Schechter Metropolitan is now looking to raise $’0 million of which it has already raised about $6 million for a new facility. Schechter’s directors are looking at several possibilities in the area, said Schechter President Sy Sadinoff.
"There is an active search," he said. The board has given a broker the job of finding a suitable space for the school.
Once a location has been chosen, Sadinoff expects funds to come in quickly. "We know the community is going to be supportive of us. We don’t anticipate having any hard commitments [though], until such time as we have a specific property that we’re looking to pay for," he said.
Sadinoff would like to see the project completed within the next two years. "Given our current situation, we are anxious to get something accomplished as quickly as possible," he said.