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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 3 weeks ago

Day school expands to new campus

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The new campus of Hershorin Schiff Community Day School will feature garden space, athletic fields and custom-built classrooms.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

When a family outgrows its one-bedroom apartment, it looks for a new space in which to grow.

The same thing is happening at Hershorin Schiff Community Day School, just on a larger scale.

The school, which enrolls 270 students from 12 months to eighth grade, will move from 1050 S. Tuttle Ave. to the intersection of Wilkinson and McIntosh roads, giving it a capacity of 300 students and additional facilities.

The new location will not only offer the school a chance for expansion, but it also will be more centrally located in the county, which Head of School Dan Ceaser said would allow the campus to serve more families throughout the county.

The new campus will feature a gym, which the current campus does not have.

Since Hershorin Schiff became an independent community day school five years ago, the demand has tripled.

“We’ve just outgrown the campus,” Ceaser said. “We’ve been renting it, and it’s been a dream of our board of trustees for us to own our own space, and we’ve been working toward that goal for several years.”

After some setbacks due to partnerships that fell through and COVID-19, school leaders finally settled on 8.8 acres that used to host Temple Baptist Church and Suncoast School for Innovative Studies.

Hershorin Schiff purchased the property for $2.7 million and will raise an additional $8.8 million for renovations over the next five years.

Immediate plans include adding a second educational building to create a courtyard and renovations to several classrooms, such as a science lab, an art room and a music room. When construction is complete, there will be nearly 40,000 square feet of classroom and office space.

The classroom area will be divided into two buildings: one for early learning and another for elementary and middle school students. The school also will have plenty of outdoor space for its expanding programs. 

A 1-acre garden and playground area will be built for the school’s agricultural science program. Students choose which produce and plants to grow and spend the year learning how best to care for them. A remembrance orchard will line the property. 

The property also came with a lighted athletic field and a gym — two facilities the current campus does not have. Previously, the school had to rent facilities or practice at public parks.

“Two years ago, our soccer team made it to the finals, and we were asked to host a game, and we didn’t have a regulation field, so we had to rent a space in North Port,” Ceaser said. “Now our kids will have a field, locker rooms, scoreboard — all of these amazing things.”

Because the property was partially used by a church previously, there is a dedicated chapel that the school will use for Friday Shabbat and other purposes.

The new campus will feature a chapel, which the current campus does not have.

Temple Baptist Church will continue to use the chapel for its Sunday services, which Ceaser said fits in with the message of the school.

“We want to create a space where Jewish and non-Jewish students can learn from each other and bridge differences,” Ceaser said. “That extends outside our student body. This is not just a place for our students. It’s a building for the entire community.”

Although the campus will have a visitor’s center, a single-point of entry and a monitored entry off McIntosh Road during the day, Ceaser said it will be open for community organizations to use the church, gym or athletic fields at night or on weekends.

Ceaser said he’s most looking forward to welcoming students to campus upon construction completion and that kids are already getting excited.

Communications and marketing specialist Lindsay Sweeting said she and her two daughters who attend the school often stop at the new campus to monitor the progress.

“My oldest always unbuckles her seat belt, crawls in the front seat and asks me a million questions,” Sweeting said. “They’re so thrilled to see the progress, and we all can’t wait to welcome them to campus.”

Construction  began in October 2020 and will be finished in time for the 2021-22 school year.

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