Families gathering at the CityKids center in Tel Aviv, February 2012.
Families gathering at the CityKids center in Tel Aviv, February 2012. Photo by Ben Meir
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Plans to transform a popular Tel Aviv community center and nursery school for English speakers into a full-time bilingual school are moving forward at breakneck speed.

Following a Wednesday night meeting attended by more than 75 families, CityKids founder and director Elvia Fisher confirmed to Haaretz that a formal application to become a full-time bilingual school will be filed with the Education Ministry by the March 29 deadline.

Fisher first began publicly floating the proposal two weeks ago.

Together with her business partner, Yuval Berman, whose son attends the 14-month-old privately run center, Fisher is now multitasking to bring the plan to fruition: She is finalizing the application with a legal expert; crafting an educational model with academic and linguistic experts from two leading Israeli universities; working with parental subcommittees charged with evaluating candidates for principal; searching for a prime city location that will comply with city zoning and safety codes; and securing the initial financing.

"I told parents that this program is feasible," said Fisher, a 26-year-old immigrant from Guilford, Connecticut, who said she has encountered some skepticism from parents about the center's chances of clearing a seemingly insurmountable wall of bureaucracy. "We did not say this was an option until we knew it was possible. This has been in the planning stages for three months."

Fisher declined to reveal the names of candidates being considered for principal, nor the costs associated with launching the project.

She said the school's future location - which would address the need for accessibility, parking and play space - will most likely be in the Montefiore neighborhood of Tel Aviv.

In the coming days, two meetings are planned with "potential investors who would help with the start-up costs," said Fisher, who noted that the center might consider applying for not-for-profit status in an attempt to secure additional funding.

Fisher also told Haaretz that the program would accept only those students who "understand English fully" and who successfully pass an "observation day."

Elementary school classes will run the length of an international school day, from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., and will abide by the mandatory curriculum set forth by the Education Ministry.

There will be a maximum of 24 students in a class - the national average is 35 to 42, Fisher said - with classes for 2-year-olds capped at 10. The center is considering a model currently being used in California, which would signal a departure from the parallel teaching method in some of Israel's bilingual educational institutions that pairs English and Hebrew teachers in tandem. Fisher says she is confident the new school's chosen model will obtain ministry approval. Tuition fees - between NIS 2,500 and NIS 3,300 per month - will cover daily operation of the school, said Fisher, who noted that parents would be paying for "a full school day."

Fisher says she plans to keep the community informed about the status of the center's application in the weeks to come.