The Sinai School plans to leave its home at Yavneh Academy at the end of the school year. The move is necessary, administrators wrote in a recent letter to parents, because of both student bodies’ accelerated growth.
The special needs program has just entered its third year at the Paramus facility.
Yavneh’s enrollment is just under 730 students, said its principal, Rabbi Jonathan Knapp. Last year, 706 students were enrolled through middle school and 97 graduated. Administrators had projected this year’s student body at 690 but are now expecting it to grow to almost 800 in the coming months.
“We’re seeing a big increase in early childhood and first grade,” Knapp said. “And in addition to that there’s been a spiked interest in terms of transfer students, especially into the middle school.”
Sinai uses three classrooms and some office space at Yavneh, which are needed to accommodate Yavneh’s expected increase in students next year, according to Knapp.
“Unfortunately, due to our physical plant limitations, we were not able to find any alternatives for both ends,” Knapp said. “Even the classrooms we’re offering Sinai this year are inadequate for their growing needs.”
Sinai has 25 students in first through fifth grade in its elementary program at Yavneh but the school’s dean, Laurette Rothwachs, would like to see that number grow to 60 children in first through eighth grades.
“We’re not going to be successful unless we can grow and provide for these children as they get older,” Rothwachs said.
Rothwachs told this newspaper that Sinai is already looking for a new space for the 2009-10 school year.
“We are in the process of speaking with all of the schools in the community to figure out what the best would be,” she said. “We’re looking forward to working with the community to solve this.”
When Sinai began its agreement with Yavneh two years ago, the school was planning to move to the old Frisch building, which now houses The Bat Torah Academy”“The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School and Yeshiva Ben Porat Yosef. Yavneh agreed that Sinai would move to that building with them, but the plan fell through.
Although Yavneh does not plan renovations in the foreseeable future, Knapp said that if the school were to expand its building it would gladly welcome Sinai back.
“From Yavneh’s end, the partnership has been outstanding,” Knapp said. “That’s probably the most difficult part of the reality we’re talking about for the coming year.”
Sinai’s discussions with other yeshivas to find a new home are in preliminary stages, Rothwachs said. The Jewish Center of Teaneck and Cong. Sons of Israel in Leonia, both left empty last month by Yeshiva Ben Porat Yosef, are not viable options because of Sinai’s commitment to mainstream students as much as possible, she said.
“We’re looking for a school where our children will be integrated as much as possible into that day-school setting,” she said, “so they will be part of that day-school experience or day-school life. We can’t do that in a stand-alone program.”
Knapp praised that aspect of Sinai, adding that both Yavneh and Sinai students have benefited from the shared space.
“For Yavneh students, it helps them appreciate that all children learn differently and that all of us have our strengths and all of us have areas that are harder for us,” he said. “It offers all students wonderful social opportunities.”