The Forward-Thinking Jewish Day School
Paul Penna’s progressive and inclusive approach to academics
Although the main focus of Paul Penna Jewish Day School, a private school housed within the walls of the Miles Nadal Centre at 750 Spadina Avenue, is on education, it is also about so much more than that.
Amy Platt, the school’s principal, told Village Living that “What’s most important is our approach to general studies” and integrated learning, combined with Jewish values. A “community feel permeates the school,” and there are “great opportunities for full emersion into the community.”
Students of Paul Penna “spend about an hour to an hour-and-a-half each day in Hebrew and Judaic studies,” including Hebrew language, Torah stories, Jewish history, holiday and Shabbat customs, and Israeli culture.
In addition to a strong academic curriculum, the school offers an arts program in partnership with Rose Avenue Junior Public School and the Koffler Gallery.
Paul Penna goes from Kindergarten to Grade 6. Afterwards, many students move on to public alternative schools for middle and high school.
That being said, there have also been countless grads who have gone to Robbins Hebrew Academy (formerly USDS) for Grades 7 and 8, or who “are now going on to CHAT,” (Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto) for middle school and high school, which Platt feels is very exciting.
There is “a very strong interest in social action” at the school, with students from each grade focusing on their own social action value project. Some of the students are involved in Project Give Back, where they learn about various charities and the “needs of people in the world.”
“It’s a great school.” While it is a Jewish day school, it is not religious, but rather, “really accepting and welcoming of people along the religious spectrum.” In fact, Platt says, “close to 30 per cent of our families have one parent who isn’t Jewish.”
Everyone is made to feel welcome and included at the school, and to feel comfortable with each other’s differences, including “diversity in gender.”
…While it is a Jewish day school, it is not religious, but rather, “really accepting and welcoming of people along the religious spectrum.”
To that end, all of the school’s bathrooms are gender-fluid positive spaces, which Platt says have “been a fantastic learning [experience] for kids.”
At Paul Penna, students are encouraged to be themselves. They do not wear uniforms because uniforms “would be almost an antithesis of the core values of the school,” believes Platt.
Kids address teachers by their first names, prefaced by the term ‘Morah’ or ‘Moreh,’ the Hebrew terms for the female and male word for teacher, respectively.
The principal is called “Principal Amy.” Perhaps that is part of the reason why the students love their teachers, and enjoy interacting with them, such as at the annual staff student basketball and tug of war tournaments. “What makes any school outstanding is the faculty” states Platt, proudly, and “we have an outstanding faculty!”
Although there is a cost for tuition, the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation-affiliated school receives generous funding, annually, from the UJA to subsidise tuition “for families who need it.”
Paul Penna Jewish Day School’s next open house will take place on October 24th,, but it is not too late to enroll for this fall, as there are “still spots available for September in most grades.”
For more information, call 416-928-3537 or go to www.djds.ca