Valley Torah High School, the only Jewish high school located in the San Fernando Valley, is getting a new home. Faculty, staff and students along with their families gathered Aug. 29 to celebrate the ground-breaking for the new boy's division on Chandler Boulevard, which organizers hope will be open to receive students in February 2000.
At the Sunday morning ceremony, school leaders thanked those who made the new school possible, including the Jewish Community Foundation, which provided a $40,000 grant. Organizers expect the final cost of gutting and rebuilding the new property for the boy's division and renovations on the old property for the girl's division to reach $3.5 million.
The school project began about three years ago when it became clear the flourishing Jewish student community would soon outgrow its present facilities, a boys' school at 12003 Riverside Drive and a girls' school that has been held on property owned by Temple Beth Hillel, a Reform congregation in Valley Village. Enrollment at VTHS stands at 110 girls and 130 boys, with about 30 new students expected to be added to each division for the coming school year.
Students at Valley Torah learn both secular and religious subjects. Many graduates of the boy's school spend a year of yeshivah study in Israel before going on to Ivy League schools or local colleges.
"We've had graduates of Harvard, Yale, UCLA and USC," Valley Torah president Cary Samuels said.
The new boys' division will include six classrooms, biology and chemistry laboratories, a computer lab, three libraries, a beis midrash and a dining hall. The girls' division, which will move to the old boys' school, will receive extensive renovations "to make it a nicer, more genteel place for the girls," Samuels said.
Student Alia Kay, 16, said she hopes that will include a gymnasium.
"Maybe we'll get our own basketball court," the young athlete said.
Kay transferred last year to Valley Torah from a yeshivah in the city.
"At Valley Torah, it feels like much more of a family environment," she said. "The teachers really care about you and the education is great."
While some teen-agers travel from the city or even further to attend Valley Torah, the majority come from the growing North Hollywood Orthodox community, most notably from Emek Hebrew Academy.
"This event is important because until now, the school has been somewhat hidden," said Rabbi Aron Tendler of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, located just up the street from the new site. "Now we will have a prominent edifice to broadcast the study of Torah, the importance of Torah. This should become truly the focal point of our community."