Tel Aviv’s Oldest English-speaking Nursery to Close Its Doors

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A view of the Magid Community Center in north Tel Aviv.
The Magid Community Center in north Tel Aviv as photographed on April 11, 2016.Credit: David Bachar

With hardly any prior notice, a popular English-speaking nursery school in Tel Aviv is closing down. The move has prompted angry protests from dozens of local families, along with members of the diplomatic corps, many who find themselves stuck without childcare alternatives for next year.

The nursery school, located at the Magid Community Center in north Tel Aviv, operates five bilingual classes for children aged 2 through 5. Established 15 years ago, it was the first English-speaking pre-school to open in Tel Aviv and is considered an institution of sorts among the city’s growing international community. Roughly 100 children are enrolled at the school, many of them children of immigrants from English-speaking countries.

Alex Pasternak, among those leading the protests, said that because of the late notice they were given, many parents had missed the deadlines for registering their children at other private pre-schools in Tel Aviv for next year.

While public Hebrew-speaking pre-schools were an option for some families, he said, they were not a viable alternative for children of diplomats who did not speak the language.

“At this stage of the game, many families have no choice but to simply put their names on waiting lists and hope for the best,” he said. Registration for pre-schools in Tel Aviv typically closes in February.

Although Tel Aviv has several other English-speaking pre-schools, he noted, they are all already full for next year. “For those of us who consider it top priority that our children speak English, this has been a big blow,” he said.

According to Pasternak, parents at the Magid bilingual nursery had begun to hear rumors recently that the school was slated to close. They have yet to receive any official word, though, from Itiel Samet, the director of the community center.

When he approached the director, Pasternak said he was told that in order for the nursery to renew its license with the city, it was required to hire only certified teachers.

“He said he did not have a budget available to replace the current staff with certified teachers,” said Pasternak, “and therefore he didn’t even bother to submit an application for a new license.

Samet declined to answer any questions and referred Haaretz to the Tel Aviv municipality. A spokeswoman for the municipality said that the city was trying to find a solution that would allow the pre-school to continue operations. “In any event, the parents will be notified within the next few days,” she said.

Orna Glick, a mother at the school, said she feared her daughter would not adjust well to a public nursery where classes are much larger. “For people like me, whose children would not do well in a public nursery, we have no alternative at this point,” she said. “It’s simply outrageous.”

Pasternak said a group of parents was considering hiring a lawyer to represent them in the negotiations.

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