Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an article posted Jan. 4, which contained some errors.
Overall day school enrollment outside the fervently Orthodox yeshiva world was relatively stable this year, despite concerns that the economy would spur sharp declines.
According to a newly released census of 2012-13 enrollment conducted by Marvin Schick, a consultant for the Avi Chai Foundation, 83,008 children attended centrist Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and nondenominational Jewish schools, down by 0.3 percent from last year. However, the total number of Jewish day schools actually increased slightly (303, compared to 297).
The enrollment trends differed sharply from movement to movement, however. While enrollment increased 1.8 percent at centrist Orthodox schools and was stable in nondenominational schools, two sectors that collectively account for almost half of total enrollment, the situation at Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform schools was less favorable.
Continuing a pattern of the past decade, the Conservative movement’s Schechter schools lost 3.8 percent of their students. One Schechter school, the Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in Rockland County, closed last spring, while Rockland Jewish Academy, a new nondenominational Jewish school that shares some of the same leadership, opened in September 2012.
Modern Orthodox school enrollment dropped by 0.1 percent, but such schools are still more numerous and enroll more children than Centrist Orthodox ones. Reform day schools, by far the smallest sector of the day school world, saw enrollment drop by 4.8 percent.
Day school leaders from all these sectors will come together next month in Washington, D.C., for the fourth annual North American Jewish Day School Conference.
In a press release, the Avi Chai Foundation presented the findings as an indication that day school enrollment, aside from at the Schechter schools, “has remained fairly stable, despite the continued stresses of the economy.”
“This year’s essentially flat enrollment suggests that on the whole day schools have thus far weathered the economic crisis, notwithstanding the strains on both parents and scholarship budgets,” the press release noted.
Schick’s research does not include fervently Orthodox yeshivas, which he said are growing at a rapid pace.