The Marcus Jewish Community Center is taking ownership of Temple Emanu-El’s Schiff Preschool, effective Aug. 6, to stabilize student retention, upgrade classrooms and curriculum, and reach a larger audience.
The Schiff Preschool will continue under the current management for the rest of the 2017-18 school year and for summer camp before becoming the third Marcus JCC preschool location for the new school year.
Temple Emanu-El and the JCC’s Zaban Park campus, home of the Weinstein Preschool, are both in Dunwoody and are less than four miles apart.
Emanu-El Rabbi Spike Anderson looks forward to maintaining a loving preschool with the amalgamation of programs, resources and expertise from the Marcus JCC.
“Schiff has fantastic history, but in the last couple of years our numbers were declining. We have an established name, reputation and facility, yet we weren’t getting the number of kids needed to continue running a first-rate program,” Rabbi Anderson said. “Nobody does preschools better than the JCC.”
He added that synagogues and preschools are run as individual entities.
Schiff Director Sheila Purdin, who is moving to Colorado, said the preschool has 53 pupils, but the graduating pre-K class makes up half that population.
“Preschools across the city are seeing numbers drop,” Purdin said.
The Marcus JCC has a goal of enrolling 45 students in full-time day care or half-day preschool at Schiff by the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Teacher contracts are issued in late spring based on fall enrollment. Weinstein School Director Kim Sucan said Schiff will retain as many teachers as possible. She emphasized that quality teachers are the most important part of the program.
Sucan said the Marcus JCC is getting the word out via print advertisements, town hall meetings, open houses and social media from Roswell to Marietta to Dunwoody.
Current parents told the AJT they are most looking forward to updates to classrooms, toys, the playground and the curriculum.
“Schiff has always been a warm and loving place. It just needs an update,” one mother said.
When Jamie Kaszowicz’s family moved to Atlanta a few years ago, she looked at four Jewish preschools. Schiff was the front-runner even though the location was out of the way. She plans to keep her daughter in the warm and intimate Schiff community.
“We are really happy there,” Kaszowicz said. “There is something to be said for a school where all the kids know the teachers and all the teachers know the kids.”
Brett Rubin, the Schiff Preschool Parent Group president, cited high teacher-student ratios and top-notch security as two reasons he plans to keep his son at Schiff.
“Over time we’ve seen fluctuating membership at our preschool, which has meant unpredictable revenue to fund our efforts year to year. We see this ‘better together’ news as a win-win, given the JCC has experienced periodic overflow at their location, year to year,” Rubin said.
Marcus JCC CEO Jared Powers said the Weinstein School is full and runs a waiting list every year. Asked about creating a preschool intown, he said: “We would love to have a preschool intown. This is not the end, but rather the beginning. We are open to future partnerships.”
The center’s other preschool is the Sunshine School at Temple Kol Emeth in East Cobb, where it moved, replacing the congregation’s preschool, after the JCC closed its Shirley Blumenthal Park campus. The Marcus JCC ran Keshet Preschool in Morningside until October 2008, when it closed for mold remediation.