Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Elana Ochs

Yavneh Academy recently announced its newest initiative, Gan Yavneh Nursery. Gan Yavneh will serve children ages 6 weeks through 5 years old, or pre-k, and will be located at the Jewish Center of Teaneck (JCOT)/Yeshiva Heichal HaTorah building. The nursery program will provide the same warm, nurturing environment, dedication to Torah and mitzvot, high academic standards and special programming synonymous with Yavneh Academy.

This kind of expansion has long been a goal for Yavneh’s board of directors and administration, and with the last phase of construction and enhancements at the Farview campus now complete, they can embark on this new project. The JCOT is a prime location in Teaneck, right in the heart of the community and is easily accessible from nearby highways.

Gan Yavneh was an idea in the minds of Yavneh’s leadership, but only became a reality when they partnered with Kol Chaverim Preschool’s Elana Ochs. Ochs is the founder and owner of Kol Chaverim Preschool (KCP), which has a location in Fair Lawn and in Teaneck at Yeshivat He’Atid, where she is the director as well. Under a unique licensing deal with Yavneh, Ochs will be merging Teaneck’s KCP with Gan Yavneh and moving to the JCOT building where she will be the new program’s director. Ochs is looking forward to taking the reins of Gan Yavneh “whilst implementing all the things that the community has come to expect and rely on from Kol Chaverim, such as quality, developmentally appropriate programming, staffing, communications, hours and flexibility for working parents.”

Ochs’ background in education makes her approach unique in that hers is the only program to offer age-appropriate Jewish programming to such young children, along with extended-care hours and a work-friendly calendar. Ochs will continue that model in this new venture, bringing along her successful programming and capable staff from Kol Chaverim. As the JCOT location is a larger space, it will be able to accommodate more classes and Ochs will be looking to hire additional staff in the coming months. Yavneh Academy Head of School Rabbi Jonathan Knapp said of Ochs, “Elana is dynamic and a consummate professional who knows the ins and outs of the business perfectly. She understands the needs of parents and has a proven track record.” Gan Yavneh will run independently from Yavneh Academy but will have its full support and access to its leadership, guidance and mental health professionals.

The news of this expansion has spread enthusiastically throughout the community, with families wondering what this new program could mean for them. As more families find themselves with two working parents, finding trustworthy, competent child care is a major concern and a top priority. Yavneh’s leadership wants parents to know they have been listening, and part of the impetus behind Gan Yavneh was a desire to meet the ever-growing needs of working parents.

As Rabbi Knapp explained, “We came to recognize that a program like this would provide a much-needed and meaningful service to Yavneh families: a local option with high-quality care, with trust and respect, that caters to our working families.”

Gan Yavneh’s standard school day will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the school will offer extended care from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Extended hours will also be available on Fridays and there will be child care and programming on days when schools are usually closed, like Erev Sukkot and the like. The extended hours are a huge boon for parents looking for those daycare-type hours to accommodate their work schedule, but not in a daycare environment.

Pam Scheininger, president of Yavneh’s board of directors, noted, “One of the best things about this program is that we can address the needs of working parents and offer a local program with precare and aftercare.” In fact, Scheininger continued, “Part of the long term vision is to offer that type of aftercare to our Yavneh Academy students.”

The administration’s plan is to eventually offer afterschool programs at Gan Yavneh for grade-school students, who would be bused from Yavneh Academy to JCOT, so parents don’t have to fight traffic at pickup time. Creating a local option for these extracurricular activities “shifts the conversation about what it means to afford it all,” says Scheininger. When picking up your child takes five minutes instead of 25, that option becomes more appealing and is more affordable than bringing someone into the home for private lessons.

Students enrolled in Gan Yavneh’s threes or pre-k programs will automatically have a spot in Yavneh Academy for kindergarten—an important guarantee in the Bergen County community as schools seem to be bursting at the seams. Prospective parents should note that both the JCOT and Farview locations will house pre-k classes. The curricula and programming will be similar, but parents might prefer one location over the other based on various factors like extended hours or type of facility.

Although school officially starts in September, there are plans to run Gan Yavneh Summer Camp in part of the JCOT facility to “provide that continuity for families who need the hours and want to keep their children without too much transition,” said Rabbi Knapp. The size of the summer camp and other particulars will be forthcoming when those details are finalized. Some basic renovations will be taking place over the summer to get the space ready for the incoming students.

This new initiative is a welcome addition to the community as parents gain additional, more flexible options for their families—and it’s just the beginning. As Scheininger noted, Yavneh plans to move “one step at a time, so every step is taken properly.” The opening of Gan Yavneh is just a first step in Yavneh’s multi-tiered plan to continue to meet the evolving needs of working parents.

For more information, email [email protected].

 By Michal Rosenberg