Jewish Girls High School Moves to Bala Cynwyd
Torah Academy is renovating a former Presbyterian church at Montgomery Avenue and Bryn Mawr Avenue. Classes for about 70 students begin Sept. 10.
Torah Academy Girls High School is preparing to open a school year for the first time in a renovated Bala Cynwyd church complex, after a quarter-century in Wynnewood.
The school of about 70 Jewish girls in grades 9 through 12 will begin classes Sept. 10 at the southeast corner of Montgomery and Bryn Mawr avenues, in two buildings that used to be home to Presbyterian Church of the Covenant.
Until this year, the high school was located on the Wynnewood property Torah Academy's K-8 students will continue attending this year.
The conversion takes place as officials in Lower Merion (and in the borough of Narberth) are grappling with whether and how to ease regulations for property owners seeking to convert former houses of worship to other uses.
Though growing enrollment in all grades helped motivate the move, assistant principal Cheryl Epstein told Patch, "From the moment that the high school was founded 26 years ago, the hope has been that the school would find its own independent home. Over the many years, we have looked at many, many sites. It's very important for a high school to have its own identity."
Students commute from as far as New Jersey and Bucks County, and the new locations should be more convenient for them, Epstein said. The school convenes classes in both secular and Jewish subjects, and as a result the school day is longer than in a public school: typically 8:25 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., said Epstein, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. history as well as Holocaust studies.
Both buildings are undergoing a variety of renovations that include the installation of classrooms and science labs, said Rick Goldfein, a member of the school's board of directors. The renovations are expected to be done by the time classes begin.
Said Epstein, "I walk around, and I just marvel at how quickly and beautifully it's coming together."
The Jewish community organization Aish Philadelphia—which bought the properties in 2008 and, with Rabbi Elliot Kopel, sold to Friends of Torah Academy in April, county records show—will continue to be a tenant of the complex, school officials said.
Property records show Friends of Torah Academy bought 1.1 acres fronting on Montgomery Avenue for $1.6 million and about 0.5 acres on Bryn Mawr Avenue for $800,000.