Classrooms are being packed up and new school bus routes finalized ahead of the American International School's long-awaited move to its new state-of-the-art campus in Even Yehuda later this month.
Though some irate parents threatened to pull their kids out of the school when the move was announced, the number of students enrolled at the school has actually risen for the upcoming academic year. The next semester will begin on August 15 at the new site, some 12 kilometers north of the school's home of 49 years in Kfar Shmaryahu.
Most of the 480 students at the K-12 private school, the largest in the country catering to the diplomatic and international community, live close to its current site in the Herzliya Pituach area. Superintendent Marsha Aaronson says the new location just south of Netanya will add 15 or 20 minutes to their journey in each direction. The school is currently compiling the results of a survey among parents about transportation to the new site, which Aaronson says may result in a special smaller bus service for children from kindergarten through second grade, whose parents have been most anxious about the extended daily journey during rush hour.
"We'll try to meet their needs," Aaronson told Anglo File this week. "I'm sure next year will be a transitional year and we'll be making adjustments as we go. We know [the longer journey] is a concern. But it is what it is and we'll try to offer the services to help parents as best we can. [The students] will take buses just like they do in other places."
The new 73-dunam campus, which was mainly funded by the sale of the 23-dunam Kfar Shmaryahu plot to real estate developers at a reported $21 million, offers a substantial upgrade in the school's facilities. In addition to the 25-meter swimming pool and spanking new technology center, the campus includes spacious classrooms, modern computer and science labs with wireless technology, a 400-seat auditorium and arts center, a large cafeteria, two full-size soccer pitches, a baseball and softball field, tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts and a large gymnasium with weight room facilities, which will mean an end to students leaving the school grounds for sporting activities.
Additional financing came from the school's building fund, to which parents contribute $900 a year per student, in addition to annual tuition fees of approximately $18,000. The new campus will have space for 600 students a year with potential room to expand to 900 if necessary. Enrollment peaked at 620 seven years ago before the second intifada.
"We've had an increase in inquiries from business people [from abroad]," superintendent Aaronson said this week. "But we're the kind of school where you don't really know your numbers until August. Right now, we're budgeting for 505 students," up from 480 this year. Aaronson added there has also been increased interest from Israelis, who traditionally make up between 15 and 18 percent of the school's student population.
Packing began at the school yesterday, the last day of the academic year. The final transfer of equipment to the new campus will be completed by June 28.
Aaronson told Anglo File in 2005 that the search for a new site began some 15 years ago, when it became clear that the school had outgrown its premises in Kfar Shmaryahu, which offered no room for expansion, due to its location on prime residential real estate. "We looked for a larger piece of land locally, but it didn't work out with all the zoning restrictions. The one in Even Yehuda met our needs. In the long run, the advantages of the new facilities far outweigh the disadvantages," she said.
Aaronson, like several other staff members and families with children at the school, will be moving from Herzliya to Even Yehuda during the summer vacation. "It'll be good for me and for the community," she said.
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