Jewish day school enrollment has increased, while overall synagogue school enrollment has dropped in the Milwaukee area, according to the annual education census of the Coalition for Jewish Learning of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
All Milwaukee-area Jewish day schools have seen an increase in enrollment over the last two years.
Synagogue educational programs have seen an unusually steep drop this academic year, but one-on-one Jewish and Hebrew learning – often arranged through synagogues – has seen an unexpected threefold increase. The pandemic is influencing these and other numbers, and it’s not clear to what extent these changes will dissipate or endure, said Jewish Education Community Planner Tzipi Altman-Shafer.
Among the findings:
- Total Jewish preschool enrollment has dropped by 43% from the prior academic year to this one. This could be related to parents not working during the pandemic. “I don’t think there’s any reason to think that that’s permanent,” Altman-Shafer said.
- Milwaukee has six Jewish day schools, each with increased enrollment from two years ago. Total day school enrollment is 692, as opposed to 611 two years ago. “The increase of families in day school is definitely positive news,” Altman-Shafer said.
- Supplementary schools, or schools at synagogues, have seen overall declining numbers for years. The pandemic appears have added to that problem, leading to a one-year 25 percent drop in enrollment. Altman-Shafer believes parents who have their kids in virtual school all day don’t want to have them doing more virtual at night or on weekends. But there’s a silver lining: Synagogues have been creating or helping to arrange one-on-one learning opportunities, and those have tripled during the pandemic. One-on-one Hebrew tutoring offers a different kind of experience, and it can be scheduled according to a family’s needs. “Is this a trend that’s going to stay?” wonders Altman-Shafer. If so, it could be for the best.
“I think that like everything else during COVID, there are ways to look at the positives,” Altman-Shafer said. “I think that we can feel pretty confident that some of these numbers will right themselves.”
“We can see the alternate programs created though the synagogues and JCC,” she said, adding that she’s been impressed with the pandemic-era work of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center and elsewhere in the community. Lessons are being learned and applied in ways that could continue after the pandemic, she said.