As we reported in our recent “We Hear You” communication, we noted that a number of committees and advisory groups reflecting our various demographics were formed to assist in the planning of our historic merger.
One of the key areas that we carefully explored was the potential for maintaining a Grades Two and Three girls’ presence in Thornhill. To that end, we worked with our faculty, administrators and a parent committee from Grades One & Two to vet our options. We listened to your concerns, and understood why maintaining a presence for our youngest elementary students in the area, close to home, was a preference for many parents.
After careful and deliberate examination, including a number of thorough site visits by our parent committee and various interest groups, we have deemed that the optimal option for our Grade Two and Three girls beginning September 2019 is to have them join their older peers at Viewmount. We will of course maintain a Grade One and complete Early Childhood department at the Spring Farm campus.
The reasoning behind this decision includes both logistical and cultural considerations. From the logistics standpoint, it quickly became apparent that while the BAYT classrooms being explored for our use would provide space for formal academic instruction, the facility did not include direct access for indoor or outdoor recess, lunch, gym, or library time. The transfers back and forth to the Spring Farm building through the BAYT parking lot for those various activities would become tedious and time consuming, especially during the winter months and inclement weather.
Although the BAYT does have sufficient space for a couple of main homeroom classes, we would not be able to house academic support that would accompany them, or the administrative and office facilities that would normally be found in close proximity to the classrooms. Because the BAYT classrooms are used every Shabbos by the shul, any classrooms that would be set up during the week for our use would have to be broken down and cleared out each Friday and reset every Sunday, which would pose a whole host of other challenges and concerns.
And finally, the cultural considerations posed a formidable challenge, and were pointed out by members of the parent committee and school professionals alike. A satellite location such as what was proposed and thoroughly explored would be just that, a satellite. Students housed there would not benefit regularly from the culture of unity and positive atmosphere being fostered by the main girls’ campus at Viewmount.
Furthermore, to even consider populating the BAYT classrooms, we would need a guaranteed minimum enrollment, and some parents have already advised us that they plan to send their younger students south with their older siblings, even if there is a Thornhill satellite option. Once that happens, students who do enrol will still have work through a social transition, if their friends and classmates opt to go south next year anyway.
While those who remain in Thornhill would certainly be bused down to Viewmount from time to time for various major events, they would miss out on the day to day programming, such as Big Sister Little Sister, as well as the general positive atmosphere of the whole school being together. The fact that it would only be for Grades Two and Three also means that those children would have to transition twice instead of only once – as they move into the satellite with a decreased class size and change in atmosphere, and then once again when they ultimately move down to Viewmount for Grade Four.
The exploration and deliberation over these issues were not conducted in a vacuum, and indeed, as mentioned, we solicited the active input from our administration, academic leadership, and lay volunteers, including our parent committee.
We have concluded and trust that the move for our Grades Two through Eight, commencing September 2019, to the Viewmount campus, will be in the best interest of all our students. It is our mission to provide the optimal educational, developmental, spiritual, and social-emotional growth experience for everyone, and we look forward to the next exceptional chapter of Eitz Chaim history.
Thank you for the loyalty and trust that you continue to demonstrate in our school. We believe that the education of our students is a dynamic partnership with our parents, and we look forward to increased collaboration as we move ahead.
With our very best wishes for the hatzlacha of all our students and our shared nachas in their achievements together,
Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz
Head of School
Mrs. Adina Abramov
Chief Operations Officer