It all began in 2007 when Rabbi Yossi and Baila Gansburg purchased a former school for children with special needs to house their Chabad center, Chabad Lubavitch of Coconut Creek and West Pompano Beach in South Florida. Now, seven years and 70 students later, they are poised to open a state-of-the art 33,000-square-foot facility.
“After we purchased the Chabad House,” recalls Mrs. Gansburg, “we were approached by parents of four children who had gone to a school that had closed; they us if we would consider founding a school for their children.”
South Florida Jewish Academy opened its doors in fall 2007. Working closely with parents to create highly individualized curricula for each child, the faculty welcomed students with autism, Asperger’s, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, LD, Auditory Processing Disorder, Down Syndrome, and other conditions.
As enrollment continued to grow, the school expanded to include a high school and now caters to 70 children from kindergarten through 12th grade, with a dual enrollment program with Broward College in Coconut Creek for qualifying students. It is now a fully inclusive school, facilitating each student’s growth according to his or her abilities. The inclusion program, in which children with special needs are in the same class as neurotypical (mainstream) peers, is, says Gansburg, the only Jewish program of its kind in Florida.
The school installed the first Spacecraft Sensory Suite in North America, designed to encourage interaction via switches or the touch of a hand. The equipment can be used for calming sessions, sensory diet or interaction depending on the individual needs of the child. Gansburg says she is “extremely happy with the progress our children have made since the implementation of the sensory suite into their daily school schedule.”
As the school burgeoned, Gansburg began looking for a larger facility that would accommodate its ever-expanding needs.
On August 18, Gansburg was joined by the mayor of Coconut Creek, Lisa K. Aronson, and city commissioners, local officials, police officers, firefighters, university officials, parents, students and school supporters for the grand opening of a new 33,000-square-foot campus on the site of a former private technological school.
Gansburg is excited about the opportunities t will afford the children. “Many children with special needs are extremely bright and do very well with technology,” she says. “The equipment in the new school will allow them to advance their careers and college-readiness skills, and really help them advance on so many levels.”
There will be brand-new chemistry and biology labs, an auditorium where students can present and work on their public speaking, a new cafeteria, and just about anything else a school could possibly need.
The new campus, at 3700 Coconut Creek Parkway will make the commute much simpler for families all over South Florida aiming to provide their children a customized Jewish and secular education.
For registration and donation information, visit the school’s website: www.floridajewishacademy.org.