Day Schools Make Changes for Academic Year


If you head to Abrams Hebrew Academy, you might notice something different on its campus.

The new playground at Abrams Hebrew Academy | Photo provided

“It’s an entirely new playground, from A to Z,” said Rabbi Ira Budow, Abrams’ director. “It is a beautiful playground. … It’s important [for kids] to go into the classroom and learn, and it’s important for those kids to burn off some steam during recess and other times.”

The Yardley school built the $150,000 playground over the summer, just one of the changes Jewish day schools across the Philadelphia area have made as they prepare for a new academic year. While students spend the summer at camp or taking trips down the shore, day schools took advantage of empty classrooms to improve their buildings or enhance their programming.

Abrams Hebrew Academy

Budow said Abrams’ old playground was built 30 years ago, so the school felt it was time to replace it.

The school wanted to prioritize making the playground age-appropriate for kindergarten through eighth-grade students by providing different areas of play. The kindergartners, for example, like to crawl through the playscape, while the older students like to swing. There’s also an athletic area for sports.

Some students have already tried it and expressed approval, Budow said.

“It’s very important that children have a place to play, which challenges them physically and mentally,” he said. “[I] believe it’s a very important piece to their educational growth.”

Caskey Torah Academy

Caskey Torah Academy is making changes to both its building and programming.

Caskey has built a 500-square-foot addition that will serve as a secure entrance, with an airlock and bulletproof glass windows, as part of its capital campaign.

The school has a new music room, art room, library, office wing and more. It has replaced the building’s windows and its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and is working on updating the interior and making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The entire project is being done in phases and will be completed by the end of next summer.

This year, the school will also integrate the responsive classroom approach into its Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan (WOOP) program, developed by Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab. The goal of WOOP will be to help sixth- and seventh-graders develop grit and self-control.

Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

After a yearlong review, consolidation and overhaul conducted by Barrack students and faculty, the school added four new values to the school’s derech eretz, or “way of the land,” that guides its ethics and student responsibility. Those values are honor, kindness, community and courage.

This year, Barrack’s STEAM Institute program will see its largest ninth-grade class yet, with 21 students admitted to the Intro to Engineering class. To accommodate that growth, the school has added staff and technology and nearly doubled the size of its STEAM lab.

Barrack also added a new senior suite for its oldest students. The suite includes a lounge, workspace, computer lab and expanded college counseling office. The school has added new tennis courts and AstroTurf to its field.

The Mesivta High School of Greater Philadelphia

Marie Occhiogrosso, principal of secular studies at Mesivta, said the school is making changes so students have more opportunities to access high-level material.

Mesivta has tripled the number of Advanced Placement classes it offers from two to six. Mesivta will also offer new extracurriculars, as well as learning experiences through a dual enrollment program with Montgomery County Community College.

Tenth- through 12th-grade classes will now be leveled, with college prep, honors, high honors or AP levels. Ninth-grade classes will remain mixed, Occhiogrosso said, to not disadvantage students for coming from disparate feeder schools.

Perelman Jewish Day School

Perelman will offer some new educational programming this year for both students and adults.

For students, Perelman will launch a coding club for girls in third through fifth grades, using a curriculum by Girls Who Code. The new club will build on the material that all Perelman students learn in coding classes.

School Rabbi Chaim Galfand will start teaching classes this year for faculty and families. He will launch a Lunch & Learn series, where faculty and staff will have the opportunity to learn about Jewish holidays and commemorative days. He will also teach a 20-lesson course called “Foundations of Jewish Family Living” for families, prospective families and alumni. This class will be taught both in-person and through Zoom video conferencing.

“I’m hoping it’s a model we can explore in the future,” Galfand said. “If we have gauged the interest accurately, and the registration is enough, then we’ll look to expand the offerings.”; 215-832-0729


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