The ninth grades in Lakewood’s girls’ high schools delayed a planned first day on Monday to ensure that all students were placed before the start of the new school year. Those involved in the matter confirmed that the issue had been resolved by midday and that schools would be able to open on Tuesday.
After schools issued standard acceptances earlier in the year, many graduating eighth-graders had yet to be accepted by a high school or to accept entrance into what might not have been a first choice.
Administrators and askanim worked over the summer to place many of those who had not been formally accepted, yet as the planned opening day came, there was still a small number, around 10, who remained without a school. Last week, the Roshei Yeshivah of Beth Medrash Govoha and Mashgiach Harav Mattisyahu Salomon, shlita, issued a letter to the heads of mosdos that they should not open until each of the town’s new high school girls had been placed.
“It’s a simple problem of space,” Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski, director of Bais Kaila and long-time askan told Hamodia. “This was done to protect the kavod of the girls and to do what [can] be done not to embarrass anyone while the situation is being resolved. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; there simply are not enough desks for everyone, and it took time to work out.”
As Lakewood’s population continues to increase, there has been a constant need to open new schools to accommodate the town’s rapid growth. Of the various student bodies, girls’ high schools have remained one of the most challenging areas, as graduating elementary school classes exceed slots available in high schools. Twelve exist in town, many with multiple classes, accounting for around 950 spots if class sizes are kept at 25-30 students.
This past year saw over 1,100 eighth-graders graduating from Lakewood’s girls’ elementary schools. Representatives of the Lakewood Vaad worked with schools and families to place students who had not been accepted into their mosad of choice and were successful in resolving the vast majority of cases over the summer break. As in past years, the process necessitated many schools expanding their class sizes, some to over 40. In one instance, a school had to order a smaller desk for the teacher simply to fit the number of student desks needed into the room.
The space problem was compounded by the fact that initially there had been plans to open several new schools and classes for the coming year; however, due to technical challenges far fewer than hoped actually materialized, leading to a graver situation than askanim had anticipated.
An additional impasse was discovered when several dozen families moved to Lakewood in the course of the school year or summer with ninth-grade-age daughters, who had not secured a place in a school before relocating. All of a sudden, as the number of unplaced girls was steadily decreasing, it shot back up again, contributing to the last-minute nature of the crisis.
For the coming year, more solid plans are in the advanced stages to open several new mosdos and to add classes to some existing ones, hopefully preventing the situation from repeating itself.
At a meeting held shortly before schools were set to open, the Roshei Yeshivah, Mashgiach, school heads and askanim agreed that it was not appropriate to allow schools to open until the placement matter was resolved.
Some high schools remained closed completely even for upper grades on Monday, while most others opened their upper grades and only held off on starting the new ninth-grade classes.
As of Monday afternoon, askanim received confirmation that the last of the outstanding students had been successfully placed and that all classes would begin on Tuesday.