The Jewish Academy of Arts & Sciences, New Mexico’s only full-time Jewish school has served hundreds of young people since it opened its doors in 1996. As an elementary school with a dual curriculum in secular and Jewish studies, the Jewish Academy has prepared its students for academic success at private and public middle schools in Albuquerque. Many graduates of the Jewish Academy have gone on to colleges and universities of distinction, such as Harvard, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and many others.
“It’s purely a question of demand,” said Board President Margie Pintzow. “Ours is a well-run school of high academic achievement, fully accredited, managed and governed with great care and discipline. We have simply come to recognize and accept that our model of education is not in demand by enough parents in this community,” she said.
The decision to close reflects national trends in Jewish education. Outside of major metropolitan areas, private Jewish schools have been on the decline over the past decade. According to a 2014 national study of Jewish Day Schools by the Avi Chai Foundation, there has been a sharp decline in the number of non-Orthodox Jewish day schools over the past decade.
“Enrollment at our school has been consistent with the national trend,” said Steve Barberio, Head of School at the Jewish Academy. “Despite opening enrollment to nonJews, a name change, a stronger secular curriculum and an enhanced Jewish Studies curriculum, demand is simply not strong enough to keep the doors open,” Barberio said.
The Jewish Academy’s Board of Trustees has committed itself to a thoughtful, orderly and financially responsible ceasing of operations. “We’re paying very close attention to preserving our legacy as an excellent institution,” said Pintzow, “and that means that we must exit in a manner consistent with our values, honoring the support we’ve received from our donors, organizational partners and vendors in the community.”
“The support we’ve received from the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM) has been tremendous,” said Barberio, who came to the school in 2012. “Our school has benefited from the generosity of the Federation and from our campus partner, the Jewish Community Center (JCC). We’re doing all we can to assure the community that this year is an excellent capstone to a very successful 18-year history of Jewish education,” said Barberio.
Sabra Minkus, president and acting director of the JFNM said,
We’re certainly sad to see the day school close, but celebrate with the Jewish Academy’s Board and Staff the legacy they leave behind.
We’re proud of the work the school has done to educate children in our community, but now it’s time for us to look for other ways to offer educational services to Jewish families in Albuquerque.“The Jewish Academy has enriched our campus with the joy of children and excellent education programs,” said JCC Executive Director Dave Simon. “Though the school is closing, the JCC plans to expand our education and recreation programs for families, children and the entire community.”
The school will remain open through the end of the 2014-15 school year, wind down its operations and close the doors officially on June 30. Located on the Jewish Community Center campus, the school building will be turned over to the JCC.
“We remain committed to providing our current students with the very best education possible for the rest of this year,” said Barberio, adding,
The school leaves behind a tremendous legacy after serving Jewish families for the past 18 years.
Today, there are many more Jews with strong Jewish identities who are actively serving their communities because of the good work done by the many professionals and volunteers at the Jewish Academy of Arts & Sciences.