Jewish Journal

Hebrew Optional: Santa Clarita Charter High School Set to Open

by Jonah Lowenfeld

Posted on Jul. 27, 2010 at 6:17 pm

A new public charter high school in Santa Clarita that was to have required Hebrew language instruction as a “key component” of its curriculum will open this fall with 200 students — who will not be required to study Hebrew.

The seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders entering the Albert Einstein Academy Charter High School (AEA) in the fall will be required to study one language for four years — they’ll have the choice of Spanish, Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew — and will have the option of studying a second foreign language as well.

The first charter application submitted by AEA was rejected by the trustees of the William S. Hart Union High School District in a 2-2 vote in February. The two members who voted against it cited concerns about the Hebrew-heavy curriculum — students would have had to take Hebrew for four years as well as a second language for two years. The trustees also felt that the school might specifically target Jewish students. A revised charter application — with the Hebrew requirement removed — was approved by the district in a 4-0 vote in March.

At a standing-room-only information session held July 22 at the Santa Clarita Hyatt, the 200 parents and students in attendance — many of whom were already enrolled at AEA — seemed more interested in topics other than language instruction.

AEA Principal Edward Gika outlined the school’s philosophy, the accreditations it would apply for and the extracurricular activities it planned to offer. After fielding questions from the audience — many of which related to the school’s uniform — Gika introduced Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami, executive director of AEA. Gika did not mention Blazer’s rabbinic title.

AEA has leased a 16,000-square-foot office building, and Blazer said that construction would be completed by the first day of school, Aug. 30. A second phase of building, planned for summer 2011, will add an additional 5,000 square feet, allowing AEA to add a new grade every year. The student body is projected to reach capacity — 450 students — in the fall of 2013.

Marni Morse, who is a member of Temple Beth Ami and attended the info session, said she was excited by the “solid focus” of AEA’s leadership, and that she “loved the fact that it’s language-based.” Her son will be entering AEA in the eighth grade. “He wants to take Latin,” Morse said. “I’m just excited for him to take something.”

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