Maayan Torah starts year in new home

PHOTO:  Students and parents explore Maayan Torah’s new school.

Maayan Torah Day School began the school year Sept. 4 in a new home – a dedicated school building with a host of indoor and outdoor amenities.

Maayan’s new home at 2 Touchstone Dr. in Lake Oswego is a 12,270-square-foot school featuring large classrooms and dedicated space for a variety of uses including a lunchroom and performing arts stage. The 1.2-acre campus boasts a garden area, outdoor playground and basketball court.

“Even before school started, kids and parents stopped by excited and curious about their new school,” says Maayan Principal Aviel Brodkin. “Their eyes pop open wide seeing the garden, play areas and bigger classrooms. One family even redesigned our garden space for special toddler use.”

“Eager students, little and big, volunteered to help over the summer, because they are so excited to call this place ‘my school.’ They like having a place to hang out and play ball after school, have personal lockers and grow things in our new garden. Having a school of their very own has meant more to them than we anticipated.”

Maayan Torah launched in 2011 with one preschool class of 10 students. This year, 95 children from eight congregations are enrolled in preschool through eighth grade with a waiting list for preschool. The school is accredited for K-12 by AdvancED. In 2017, Maayan students averaged a combined 86.1% on Oregon standardized assessments of reading and math – 7.5% higher than the two closest public schools.

“We are so excited about the new school,” says Maayan parent Jodi Garber-Simon, who, with her husband, Neil Simon, served on the committee to find a new site. “Maayan has really grown, and this new space will allow the students to have their own designated classrooms, a gymnasium, a stage for performances, multiple outdoor play spaces and room to grow more. The teachers will be able to decorate their classrooms.”

Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin is the dean of MTDS. “Every year, we have had to turn away kids from the preschool, which is a feeder into the elementary grades,” he notes. With the larger space, he expects preschool and day school enrollment to continue their rapid growth. In addition to the school’s excellent secular education, he says families are attracted to Maayan’s values-based education and the strong Hebrew and Judaic programs.

With more space and amenities, the school is poised to attract more families. Rabbi Brodkin says  most of the current families live within 10 minutes of the new location, so they did not lose any students due to the move.

For its first seven years, the day school had leased space from Congregation Neveh Shalom. Due to the combined growth of Maayan and Neveh Shalom programs, Maayan began to search for a new home in January. When the building then housing Touchstone School became available in March, school leaders, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and local donors stepped up to help Maayan win the bid for the lease over five other schools.

“As we were looking for a new home, federation wanted to be engaged and help create a great solution,” says Rabbi Brodkin. “They are a great partner, and this would not have been possible without them.”

JFGP Chair Ed Tonkin says he is proud of the role federation played in finding a new physical space for MTDS, one of three Jewish day schools in the community. “The community pulled together, and we were able to get Maayan Torah Day School into a beautiful property thereby ensuring a vibrant future for the school, which will allow it to grow even larger.”

“The school had basically one week to put their bid in on the building,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner. “We recognized the need to raise funds (the school needed about $70,000 a year in commitments for the next five years from donors). Federation leadership and Rabbi Brodkin raised that money in two days. At same time, Ed called a special federation board meeting for the Jewish federation to serve as a guarantor (no funds needed) on the five-year lease. The board voted unanimously to serve as the guarantor. Two days later, Maayan Torah won the bidding process.”

Rabbi Brodkin says the school has a five-year lease, the option to renew for a second five years and the first right of refusal on any sale of the building.

“Neveh Shalom was such a fantastic space to start the school and to grow it, and we are so appreciative of the partnership we had with the synagogue,” says Jodi. “However, there is something so special about now having a school building all to ourselves – our own space where we can hang a sign out front and create the campus and atmosphere that reflects our school.”

“Now we are at the stage where it is important to have our own space,” says Rabbi Brodkin. “I’m happy to be able to take it to the next level.”

Fundraising continues to purchase technology, art supplies, science equipment, playground equipment and other supplies.

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