A new day school is set to open its doors this September and it is boasting that it will cut tuitions to half of the northern New Jersey average. Yeshivat Bli Kesef, which has leased space in Bogota because it was less expensive than anywhere else, says its school will focus on giving students five free periods a day, interspersed with classes in physical education, shomrei n’giah, and financial planning, all of which are deemed essential for growth. Two of the sessions will be divided by lunch, which students will bring from home.
“What we’ve constructed here is a brand new approach to learning,” said the school’s new headmaster, or rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Yosef Aleichem. “We believe students will learn more when they plan their own curricula. Each free period will be devoted to three subjects, from which the students can choose the one to concentrate on on any given day.”
“There also will be no exams or quizzes,” the rabbi said. “The students will tell us what their grades are. In this way, we’ll be able to teach them to build up their self-confidence, and also allow them to establish trust between themselves and the administration.”
The rabbi noted that day school tuitions in the area have skyrocketed beyond reason. “People simply cannot afford to pay $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 per child for schooling, especially since the average family has four to six children,” he said. “By eliminating teachers, we’ve managed to cut the budget enough to halve the tuition.”
Each free period will be monitored by “dedicated parent volunteers who will get an extra 10 percent off of their tuition bills for their efforts,” Aleichem said.
A source at one of the established area day schools, who asked not to be named, criticized the new school’s staffing. “Ask them, you’ll see what I mean,” said the source, an administrator. “If you get rid of the teachers, it should more than half the budget, but not at Bli Kesef. Oh no. They have a head of school, three vice heads of school, three assistants to the three vice heads and two assistants to the head, a secretary to each who also has an assistant, two bookkeepers, and a maintenance crew. Most of it I understand, but why they need two bookkeepers is beyond me.”
Teachers also have taken issue with the Bli Kesef approach. “No teachers? Ridiculous. Halving the budget by getting rid of teachers? Not possible; teachers in day schools don’t get paid that much. You have to be an assistant to the secretary of the Third Vice Dean to get paid that much.”
Parents, however, seem to find the new education plan to be the answer to their prayers. “Imagine,” said Ira Naway of Fair Lawn, “we save money, our kids get special training in n’giah issues and financial planning, and there are no parent-teacher conferences. Why didn’t anyone think of this when I was in school?”
Students at current day schools also appear interested in the Bli Kesef approach. “Five free periods a day is two more than we already have,” said one student, Noah Stevens. “We can do a lot more in five free periods than in three.”
Asked to elaborate, the student said, “I’m working on it.”
“This is going to work wonderfully,” the rosh yeshivah said. “You just watch how people will flock here. We may have to rent another building to hold them all. There’s one available in Ridgefield Park.”
Asked how students would get from a building in one town to a building in another, he said, “They can always walk the two miles instead of taking phys ed.”
Yeshivat Bli Kesef can be reached at 201-555-7777.
It is still awaiting approval from the state education board.