Talmud Torah of St. Paul Day School faces tough choices


As with many schools in the Twin Cities, enrollment is down at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul’s Annette Newman Day School.

At its most recent meeting on March 23, the TTSP board of directors was forced to address that tough issue. Prior to the meeting, a committee brought up one way to maintain the school’s financial viability: close the Day School.

“Our Day School provides excellent integrated Jewish and general education,” board president Lisa Cohen said in a March 26 letter to parents of TTSP students. “However, at this time, we do not have the enrollment numbers we need for the Day School to be financially sustainable.”

The board of directors has set April 30 as a deadline to enroll the necessary 70 students for the 2010-2011 school year. As the letter from Cohen stated, 47 reenrollment forms have been submitted; another 10 potential students are expected to submit enrollment forms.

Whether or not the Day School enrolls 70 students, the board has already decided to eliminate the seventh and eighth grades for next year. According to an information sheet distributed by TTSP, the two grades are being eliminated “due to a small enrollment which does not allow the appropriate social opportunities for students of that age group.”

In her letter, Cohen stressed that seventh and eighth grade students will continue to be educated in TTSP’s Midrasha program, which will create “a special track for them where necessary.”

Assuming the Day School remains open, it will become a prekindergarten through sixth grade program.

“The board is committed to the institution being financially responsible,” Day School Principal Sara Lynn Newberger told the AJW this week. “Right now, my focus is on working to get to 70 [students]. Nobody wants to close this school.”

Newberger said other cost-saving options have been explored and will be addressed again if the enrollment target is not met by April 30. The overall goal is to ensure the sustainability of the Talmud Torah of St. Paul over the next three years.

At a March 26 rally and informational meeting, many of the attendees were parents of former students who pledged their support for the Day School.

“People like this school, like what it does, like its mission and values, like the sense of community, like the education that it gives to kids, and feel really committed to it,” Newberger said. “So there’s a lot of people up there who want to say, ‘Let’s make this happen.'”

The Day School will continue to recruit in traditional ways, but is also exploring “new avenues” of recruitment. Staff members are encouraging parents to talk to other families about the benefits of Day School enrollment; current TTSP families who refer a new student will receive a $500 tuition credit for their own student.

Aside from the general and Judaic studies curriculum, Newberger said the Day School offers “what appears to be a very generous financial aid process” to families who qualify.

Newberger said that the Day School has representation from a variety of synagogues and movements, and is an important part of the St. Paul Jewish community.

“As people look at towns, places to move, some people look at ‘Is there a [Jewish] day school there?’ before they choose to move someplace. There’s a vibrancy that comes with day schools,” Newberger said. “It’s really a good place to go to school.”


To arrange a tour, contact Marissa Onheiber at 651-698-8807 or: marissa.onheiber@ttsp.org. For information, visit: www.ttsp.org.