TanenbaumCHAT is adding 14 new classrooms to accommodate a Jewish day school enrolment boom in Toronto

Fourteen new classrooms are coming to the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, as part of an overdue building expansion for a school set to operate at maximum capacity for the upcoming academic year—with approximately 1,300 students enrolled.

The school will be able to take on an additional 250 students following construction, which is expected to be complete by September 2024.

The announcement comes six years after TanenbaumCHAT cut tuition and closed its northern campus in an effort to increase affordability for families. When the school year started in September of 2017, there were only 874 students enrolled.

As that number increased, the need for space was temporarily accommodated by moving some elements of its operations—such as business and recruitment offices—out of the school building on Wilmington Avenue. Storage space was also cleared to create new classrooms.

“We have had fantastic growth over the last number of years in terms of student population and enrolment. We are blessed to be successful and thriving,” said Jonathan Levy, head of school for TanenbaumCHAT.

“We need to expand our physical footprint, and we are doing that to enhance the student experience, to accommodate our staff, and to be able to continue to serve the Jewish community into the future.”

The new wing will be constructed in the northwest corner of the property, which is currently the edge of the field. Preparation for construction has already begun, and it will continue throughout the school year. However, beyond reducing the size of the field, impact on students is expected to be minimal.

The expansion will cost about $11 million, said Levy. The school has a lead gift in place, although Levy could not yet disclose who it came from.

For Daniel Held, chief program officer at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, this announcement is evidence for the success of a recent initiative to increase accessibility for Jewish day schools in Toronto, as part of making them a cornerstone of the community.

“We also know that the cost of Jewish day school is prohibitive for many,” he said, “and our work at Federation has really focused on making day school more affordable for families with a goal of increasing enrolment.”

Held cited two main initiatives that contributed to TanenbaumCHAT’s success. The first was the aforementioned 2017 affordability initiative in 2017, which merged the school’s two campuses and cut tuition.

The second is the Generation’s Trust, which is an endowment designed to provide scholarships for children to attend Jewish elementary schools. Enrolment had been decreasing for 17 years, Held said, but the trend reversed course four years ago.

Jewish elementary schools are the primary feeder schools for TanenbaumCHAT, so increasing their student population has also contributed to the high school’s boom. In 2017, there were 175 students entering Grade 9; this year, there are 375.

For the head of school, the flow of students is not just evidence of the success of the affordability initiatives, but also of the academic accolades.

“I think that lowering the cost a few years ago was certainly beneficial to many families, but I think that families and students are drawn to what is an exceptional academic program as well as an exceptional extracurricular program,” said Levy.

“Students want to be part of what this is. Families want to be part of what the school is. And without excellence, I don’t think the cost would simply do it for people. People still want a great experience, and that’s what TanenbaumCHAT provides.”