A couple of months ago I mentioned in passing that there were preliminary plans to open a new yeshiva high school for the coming year. At that point very few people had heard about that and I was contacted for more details. to find out if this was actually more than theoretical talk.
Yes, this is a very serious project. And very encouraging for our family, since we’re likely to be the primary family in the city benefiting from this new school!
What is so exciting for us? The vast majority of charedi boy’s yeshivas in Israel do not teach secular subjects. Of the very small number of yeshiva high schools that do, almost all are located in the center of the country and are dormitory only schools. Ds14 has been accepted to the yeshiva of his choice and it’s lovely that the administration is so enthusiastic about him but we are very, very reluctant to send a child to live away from home at this age. We feel it’s not a positive thing for a number of reasons, despite it being the prevailing practice. Last year I looked into schools in the north that would allow ds to live at home and couldn’t find anything suitable. This left me grappling with a difficult decision – send him to a school that wasn’t appropriate so he could live at home, or send him to a school that was a good fit and have him living in a dorm. No good options.
Then this year I heard about the new school being planned. Amazingly enough, the year that ds14 will be starting high school, a charedi yeshiva that offers the bagrut (Israeli matriculation exams) will be opening in my city. Not just in my part of the country, but in my city! What are the odds?! Remember that there are a tiny number of schools like this in the entire country, so the statistical likelihood of one opening right here, right when I need it is very, very small. We like what we’re hearing so far in terms of the goals and direction of the school. They are putting together a very solid plan, working together with chief rabbi of the city, the city municipality and the local engineering college to provide a high level Jewish and secular education.
The rosh yeshiva of the new yeshiva was decided on just a couple of weeks ago. This will be the current administrative principal at the local cheder, who will leave his position there to head the new yeshiva. I don’t know him personally but dh and ds14 both think he’ll be fantastic. He is the rav of an shul that is known for it’s warm and accepting atmosphere and he does a lot of outreach to less affiliated Jews, while being a well-respected long time member of the local charedi community. He has the ability to bridge a lot of the potential difficulties between the community and the school (I’ve been told the community is afraid that this school might be seen as attractive choice to some of the boys locally).
Regarding secular studies – here skill based classes like English and math are tracked according to difficulty level. For example, math at the three point level is the easiest, four point (harder – many schools don’t offer anything higher than this), and five point (very challenging). The math and English at the new yeshiva will be offered at the five point level. They are planning for the secular department to be operated in conjuction with the Ort Braude engineering college, and the specialized slant at the high school level will be on aeronautical engineering. They are also discussing the possibility of the students earning some kind of trade certificate like in computers or electricity, but I personally think that may be too ambitious. If it works out, it will be nice but I’m not counting on it.
I’ve been told that they are gearing the school towards more academically accomplished students (I keep saying things like ‘I’ve been told’ because I have a degree of skepticism about everything until I see how it plays out in reality). I believe part of this is their understanding of how easily a boys’ school with secular studies can be labeled as for problem kids (more about that in another post).
There are a number of details that are still being worked out, but those involved are very serious and very committed. There has already been enormous interest from elementary schools in the north who want an option like this for their graduating eighth grade students. How many students will be from Karmiel remains to be seen; ds14 is definitely a candidate, along with one kid in his class who is keeping quiet about his desire to attend a school like this. (His mother felt it was safe to tell me after she heard that we were planning to send ds14 if it all pans out, more about why she feels she has to be hush hush in another post.) They hope to have 25 ninth grade students in the opening class, then each coming year will add another class as the highest grade moves up.
We have another five sons after ds14 so while he is the one that we’re most immediately looking for a high school for, it’s heartening to think of having a local option that will be suitable for the others as well.