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Gray AcademyBy BERNIE BELLAN

For the seventh straight year, the Gray Academy has suffered a drop in enrolment.

attendanceThere have been blips in enrolment; in 2010 there were 604 students enrolled there, which is the most it had been for quite some time. But, since that year there has been a steady decline in enrolment, to the point where it’s now only 466. The Brock Corydon Hebrew Bilingual program, by the way, has shown a slight increase this year - from 210 last year to 219 students in nursery to Grade 6.
To give an even larger perspective we went back into our archives to see how many students were enrolled at Gray Academy when it first opened 20 years ago. The answer is: 842. The next year, however, there was a large drop-off, no doubt due to the novelty of attending a brand new school having worn off for many students who wanted to experience something different, and the enrolment figure plunged to 761.
Still, there can be no denying that the Gray Academy’s enrolment is now 45% less than what it was at its peak and is 23% less than what it was just seven years ago.
But, in defense of the Gray Academy, we’ll offer what Lori Binder, Head of School, wrote to us when she supplied us with this year’s enrolment figure: “After graduating the largest class in our history (46 students) in 2017, we have surpassed the board of directors’ enrollment goal (of 460 students) for this school year.
“With 466 students enrolled in September 2017, we have the largest full-day Junior Kindergarten program in our history (40 students with two morning and two afternoon classes) and we welcomed 83 new students across most grades in our school.
 “This is despite having to wish 21 students and their families farewell as they left Winnipeg to new Canadian cities and to make Aliyah to Israel.  Last year we had 10 students and their families move out of Winnipeg.
 “With a retention rate of 92%, our community is clearly committed to Jewish education and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
As I noted in my email to Lori in which I requested this year’s enrolment figure (which we had to do several times before Lori finally sent them to us), we have been reporting enrolment figures for years. What we do want to note though, and again, this is something we have written about several times in the past – is that, when it comes to integrating the children of newcomers into the Jewish community, by far and away the most successful tool we have on hand are the two sleep-over camps: Camp Massad and BB Camp. Both camps have been hugely successful in achieving the goal of attracting newcomers, especially Massad, which had record registrations this past summer.
While Camp Massad has been able to offer scholarships to many of its campers – as a result of funding received from various sources, I am told that it could certainly use more help financially to be able to have even more kids from newcomer families attend there. (By the way, even if a camper does receive a scholarship, the family is required to pay at least $2,000 toward camp fees at a minimum. The fact that so many newcomer families are willing to commit to spending that amount is an indication how much they want their kids to have a Jewish experience.)
Perhaps, based on what we’ve just reported here, there might be some consideration given to a reallocation of resources within our community when it comes to supporting those organizations that are proving more successful at integrating the children of newcomer families into the Jewish community. Or - is that touching a nerve that shoudn’t be touched?

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