Elizabeth DaSilva might be more excited than her son Jordan for his first day of kindergarten.
DaSilva's other children attended Pinellas County Jewish Day School, and when the school closed after the 2010 school year, she worried about the importance of a Hebrew education for her younger children, and where they would get that.
“It’s such a blessing to be in this environment,” Elizabeth said. “We all felt like orphans.”
DaSilva was one of many parents dropping their children off at Ben Gamla, the first Hebrew language charter school in Pinellas County, on Monday.
Seventy kindergartners through fifth-graders are enrolled at the Clearwater school, which teaches a traditional public school curriculum supplemented by a Hebrew language component.
The religious aspect of Judaism is included only during optional after-school activities.
Ben Gamla charter schools are in south Florida, too. The first one was established in Hollywood, FL, in 2007.
With a class of 25 kindergarten students, school officials have a positive outlook on the school’s growth.
The school operates in the shadow of the failed Pinellas County Jewish Day School, which closed, in part, because of low attendance after the 2010 school year. The private Jewish school operated for 30 years in Pinellas. The school launched a $3 million expansion in 2008 and was unable to stay open because of lower attendance numbers and decreased fundraising.
Dr. Jayme Joslyn, principal at Ben Gamla, was a teacher at the Jewish Day School. Joslyn met each student and their parents at the drop off in the back parking lot of Temple B’Nai Israel.
She said the meet and greet is not reserved just for the first day, but she plans to do this 179 more times this school year.
“I want a place where families can be involved,” Joslyn said as she hugged students and assuaged parents leaving their children for the first day of school.