The project was completed (yeah!). Our new classrooms welcomed students, teachers and parents on the first day of Hebrew School. The classrooms on the lower level are now home to Torah Lataf (Kindergarten) and Kitah Aleph (First Grade) classes and will become our babysitting space for Shabbat mornings.
Photos of the progress in the hallway outside the new classrooms:
If you’ve been at Bet Am Shalom on any recent Sunday morning, you’ve seen that every corner of the building is bursting with activity -- children and adults learning, studying, meeting, eating, cooking or just talking. It’s great! But all of this activity creates a “problem”: we don’t have the space for all that we want to happen. And we’ve run out of classrooms.
On November 21, 2011 the Board of Trustees approved the concept of converting some unfinished lower level storage space -- the area directly under the sanctuary -- to two comfortable, windowed classrooms. This space, which accesses the backyard tent area, was originally contemplated when the sanctuary was built but was not finished at that time. With a moveable partition, the two new classrooms could connect to provide us with another large multi-purpose room, and could be built with appropriate technology for media use by all.
The Board also approved, as part of this plan, to install some practical enhancements to our kitchen facilities (e.g., more ovens) that would help us accommodate multiple functions over the course of a weekend, thus expanding both our capacity for congregational activities and rental potential.
On the lower level, underneath the sanctuary, we propose to convert 1800 square feet of unfinished space, currently being used for storage, to two windowed classrooms, and an adjacent 750 square feet to a restroom, a pantry, reconfigured storage areas and hall space.
The renovations to the kitchen would be in the auxiliary kitchen, located directly adjacent to the larger kitchen.
Below are photos of the stairway leading to the lower level, the unfinished space for this project and the auxiliary kitchen.
While our membership has remained steady at about 418 household units since our expansion was completed in 2006, our Hebrew School enrollment has jumped significantly and continues to grow.
Three years ago our community undertook to re-imagine Jewish learning. As our vibrant and innovative Hebrew School makes our vision real, enrollment in Kindergarten though 7th grade school has grown by 20%. Our new format requires all students in Kindergarten through 6th Grade to attend school together on Sunday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Our building has seven dedicated classrooms, sufficient for one class per grade. If the number of students in a grade reaches 18, we consider dividing the class into two sections, which happened to two grades last year. To accommodate this growth, we converted an activity room and the downstairs library for classroom use on Sunday mornings. We juggle the remaining space to allow for the Rabbi’s mitzvah class, adult study, Shorashim and family learning. And we anticipate the prospect of additional class sections, even in the coming year.
Since Sunday is the only day when all students come to school, it is the only day that we experience this space challenge.
During the current school year, when an additional grade grew to 20 students, because we did not have another available space, we needed to subdivide the class within one classroom. Our plan to build two additional classrooms on the lower level would provide for this class as well as to move one of the other classes currently occupying a multipurpose room into a classroom space.
Yes. Initially we evaluated several alternative approaches that would not entail renovating. In the 1990’s when enrollment exceeded our available space, we ran two consecutive sessions on Sundays with a small overlap of time in the middle, which allowed us to share classroom space. This configuration would not permit our current educational format, when everyone comes for 2 ½ hours on Sunday morning, building the school community and forging relationships between younger and older children. We also considered the use of other multipurpose spaces in our building but those spaces are already in use by the school for large group activities, family learning, music and our adult education program. We also rejected a more expensive option of new construction to extend the upstairs classroom hallway.
YES! Contact Susan Roth or the office to arrange for a tour.
In February we hired an architect to work with us and the preliminary sketches for the lower level and the kitchen, which were drawn up by our member/architect, Andy Fredman, in consultation with staff, representatives from the School Board and the Board of Trustees, and a project steering committee. The architect's plans were presented to the Board of Trustees on March 19. Their comments and suggestions were shared with the architect.
We need some additional information regarding HVAC, plumbing and electrical needs. Once that is accomplished, we will be ready to solicit bids for the project.
While we will not know the exact costs because the plans are not finalized and we have not yet gone out to bid, preliminary estimates indicate that we can complete both projects, including professional fees and contingencies, within our fundraising goal of $200,000.
We hope to raise the funds by the end of March 2012, so that we can complete the work during the summer, in time for the opening of school in September. We also hope you share our excitement about this project and will support this effort to bring Bet Am Shalom “to a whole new level”!
All members are being asked to support the project with a donation of whatever amount they are able to give at this time. Since the Board of Trustees is hoping not to incur any debt to finance this project, all funds are needed by the end of March 2012. We understand that this may impact what individual members can give, but expect that with broad-based support we will reach our goal.
A small committee of members, chaired by immediate past-president Susan Roth, is attempting to contact synagogue members by phone. We urge you to respond to their telephone calls and let them know how much you are able to commit. If you wish to discuss a gift or have questions, you may also contact Susanroth60 [at] gmail [dot] com (subject: RWAV) (Susan Roth) or simon [dot] terri [at] verizon [dot] net (subject: RWAV) (Terri Simon) by email or phone. If you are able to make a contribution, please send a check to the Synagogue office, with “RWAV” on the memo line.