More students applying to Jewish high school in Toronto

The percentage of students graduating from Jewish elementary schools who applied to Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT high school increased from 57 per cent prior to 2017, to 85 per cent for the 2020-21 school year.

TanenbaumCHAT announced on Dec. 12 that over 350 students have applied for entry into its Grade 9 program for 2020-21 school year (the deadline to apply was Dec. 1).

That number includes 80 applicants from 39 schools who applied to its program for students who did not graduate from Jewish elementary schools, and 85 per cent of the graduating students from TanenbaumCHAT’s feeder schools, compared to 75 per cent last year.

The numbers are rising after the school announced in 2017 that it would be closing its northern campus and decreasing its tuition from almost $30,000, to under $20,000.

According to Jonathan Levy, TanenbaumCHAT’s head of school, there are around 200 students in this year’s Grade 11 class, which includes students who originally applied to the northern campus. In comparison, this year’s Grade 9 and 10 classes have over 300 students, he said, and will be joined by a further 300 or so next year.

Levy said the tuition decrease has contributed to the higher number of applicants, but nobody would apply if the school didn’t also provide a positive academic environment for students.

“We offer a huge number of elective courses, 26 competitive sports teams, dozens and dozens of clubs and committees, full shows and artistic productions, a full arts program,” he said. “I think people are seeing that you can have an amazing education over here, you can have an incredible experience.”

Levy also said that the increase in applicants isn’t just driven by parents who want their children to have a Jewish education. “I think that there’s also some sort of group mentality going on. Kids are telling their parents this is where they want to go to school. So I think there’s something in the air, as well,” he said.

Even though TanenbaumCHAT had to shut down its northern campus, Levy said the school is still receiving applications from the feeder schools in Toronto’s northern suburbs. Over 80 per cent of their graduates applied for Grade 9 next year.

Of course, since many feeder schools in the area have closed down over the last few years, the total cohort is smaller than in the past. But of those that do attend Jewish elementary schools in the suburbs, the high application rate is encouraging to TanenbaumCHAT.

The tuition decrease, which runs through the 2021-22 school year, was based on research suggesting that it would cause the number of applicants to rise. But Levy is impressed that it has happened so soon, saying the school is “exceeding expectations.”

He gave credit to the community, especially UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, for its strong and continued support for accessible Jewish education.

“I think that we have wonderful partners in UJA. I think that Toronto is lucky. And if you look at other cities, I’m not sure that you find the same relationships between schools and the Federation,” he said.

“I think that the community recognizes the importance of Jewish education and the need to support TanenbaumCHAT and we’re obviously incredibly grateful for the donors who made this all possible.”

The school is working to secure more funding to keep tuition rates low, after the funding for the initial five-year subsidy runs out. That includes its announced tuition accessibility program, which includes maximum tuitions for the two succeeding years and lower costs for families with lower financial means.

“I think there’s an amazing atmosphere in the school. I think that there is energy. There is exceptional programming. There is excitement. I think kids are coming to school happy, I think they’re going home happy and we are having a great impact on the Jewish community,” Levy said.