(Above): A rendering shows Atlanta Jewish Academy’s proposed upper school entryway, which will be separate from the lower school.

Capital campaign will unify K-12 campus in Sandy Springs

A little more than a year after Greenfield Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva Atlanta High School merged in July 2014 to create Atlanta Jewish Academy, the only K-12 Jewish day school in Atlanta has embarked on a $10 million capital campaign to form a unified campus in Sandy Springs.

The resulting enhancements to the former GHA campus at 5200 Northland Drive will enable the high school students to move from the old Yeshiva Atlanta site in Doraville.

“For the last 30 years people have talked about merging these two schools,” AJA board President Ian Ratner said. “Around the country, you’ll see that K-12 is the winning educational model. So far, it’s been a very smooth merger. If there were weaknesses in one school, we have been able to take strengths of the other school. You’re taking two very good schools and trying to get to an excellent school.”

This site plan shows the proposed additions (dark gray) to Atlanta Jewish Academy’s Northland campus.

This site plan shows the proposed additions (dark gray) to Atlanta Jewish Academy’s Northland campus.

The school has raised $6.3 million so far to add the upper school building, which will be on the south side of the Northland Drive property, behind the auditorium on land that the AJA soccer field occupies. The plan calls for the field to be turned sideways to accommodate the building.

Highlights of the upper school addition include a state-of-the-art gymnasium, a weight room, a wrestling room, a science lab, and a separate, modern entryway for the upper school.

Gay Construction, the company that built the new home for Young Israel of Toco Hills in 2014, has been contracted to work on the addition at AJA. A date has not been set for construction to begin, though Ratner said the layout of the lower school on the 10-acre property has made planning for the build problematic.

“We are having some challenges with the campus,” he said. “The existing building is not the most efficient use of space. We have a beautiful, 10-plus-acre campus here, but it’s a very difficult topography with a large ravine right in the middle. That creates a challenge. We have not rushed into any groundbreakings yet because we are trying to come up with the best way to get it all to work.”

In June, AJA sold the former Yeshiva Atlanta property in Doraville to the Tapestry School but is leasing space there this year for the high school. AJA has received zoning approval from Sandy Springs for the additions at Northland Drive.

Ratner and campaign director Natasha Lebowitz are at the administrative head of AJA’s capital campaign.

Many naming opportunities remain for the addition, which will help form what Ratner said will be one of the premier Jewish learning centers in the United States.

“This is going to be the most exciting Jewish educational entity in the Southeast,” he said, “if not the country.”