Local school expands

Local school expands

Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High will grow by 50 percent

A rendering of what an expanded Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls will look like after a $10 million construction project.
A rendering of what an expanded Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls will look like after a $10 million construction project.

They keep on growing.

You drop your child off for first grade, she’s barely able to read, and eight years later she’s discussing literature, factoring numbers, and ready to enter high school.

Four years later she’s off to college, probably taller than you, and shockingly independent.

And still they grow.

The same is true of the schools they attend, if the schools are successful, well-run, and lucky enough in their demographics.

Northern New Jersey has been fortunate in its demographics when it comes to yeshiva high school students. Last year, there were 1,423 yeshiva high school students in the area’s schools; that compares to 1,175 a decade earlier, according to statistics kept by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

And Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls has shared in this bounty. It now has 350 students, and given that its ninth grade has close to 100 students, it is headed toward 400. Its student body keeps on growing.

So now it’s unveiling plans to grow its building, with an addition that will expand it by 50 percent, or 30,000 square feet.

The school is launching a $5 million capital campaign to pay for half of the costs of the expansion. The other half of the planned $10 million building project will be paid for down the road by the parents of the students who will be in the new spaces.

If all goes well, in both the fundraising and the planning, Ma’ayanot leaders hope to begin work on the expansion in the spring and be able to move into the new spaces, and use the renovated old spaces, in fall 2019, next school year.

The school moved into its building in 1996, in what then was Teaneck’s industrial zone but has now become a yeshiva zone (thanks to the neighboring Torah Academy of Bergen County, a boys’ high school, and Yeshivat He’atid, an elementary school). Then, the building was too large, so Ma’ayanot sublet a portion, first to Teaneck’s charter school, and next to a day care center. But for years now it has occupied all the building and been feeling tighter every year.

“We have found already an incredibly positive response,” Rivka Kahan, the school’s principal, said of the fundraising campaign. That includes nearly $1.5 million in pledges.

The architectural highlight of the addition will be a new synagogue space, with a high ceiling and a curving glass wall to “to give natural light and more expansive feeling in the tefilla space,” Ms. Kahan said, using the Hebrew word for prayer, “to inspire a feeling of connection.” It will contrast with the low-ceiling, windowless space now used for prayers, a space that barely can seat the entire student body. The back wall of the synagogue can open up to allow the expanded area to seat 700 people.

“It will be one of the larger spaces in the community,” Daniel Altman, the school’s president, said.

“It’s not just about getting more rooms in our school,” Ms. Kahan said. “We’re creating the space to provide the kind of education we want to develop.”

“It’s not simply a matter of getting boxes you turn into classrooms,” Mr. Altman said. “Our present building was not built for the latest and greatest ways we want to educate our students. We realized something had to be done to make our space more collaborative.”

Ms. Kahan said that with Ma’ayanot’s emphasis on the study of Jewish texts in chevruta, study pairs, “we’re excited to build a beit midrash where multiple classes can come and study at the same time.” There will also be a wing devoted to science and technology and art with new laboratories, art spaces, and even a dance studio.

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