The 2020-2021 school year and the Covid-19 pandemic brought unanticipated changes to the landscape of Jewish day schools and yeshivas. As the world was brought to a halt, the work of our schools was rapidly upended, affecting the work of all professionals in the building, including admissions and development professionals. Among the concerns of school leaders was an increased demand for tuition assistance, the impact of economic forces on enrollment and raising funds to cover significant additional costs related to reopening.
During the pandemic, the Prizmah Knowledge Center conducted four pulse surveys designed to take the pulse of how Covid has been affecting Jewish day schools and yeshivas. In a previous Research Corner, I went over a few of the major findings of the first two pulse surveys. Subsequent surveys were focused on enrollment and development.
Last November, Prizmah surveyed day schools to understand the effect of Covid on enrollment. Of the 78 schools that responded, 62% increased their enrollment between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, while 36% of respondents reported a decrease. Overall, non-Orthodox schools increased enrollment by 4.3%, while Orthodox schools decreased enrollment by 1.8%. The net increase for all schools was 1.8%. Total preschool enrollment from the respondents declined by 18% during this time, most likely due to the difficulty of delivering online learning for preschool age students.
Of new students, an average of 31% came from public schools. This data point affirmed what we had been hearing from schools. We have launched a deeper study, funded by JCRIF, into understanding the experiences of parents who switched their children into a Jewish day school during Covid. Conducted by ROSOV Consulting, the study is designed to help schools retain these families and anticipate trends moving forward.
Prizmah’s most recent pulse survey, completed by 112 schools, explored the impact of Covid on fundraising. Forty-five percent of schools reported they did not meet their 2020 fiscal year goal. Despite the uncertainty of fundraising in the current economic climate, as indicated by reduced annual campaign budgets for the 2021 fiscal year, 79% of schools are expecting to meet or exceed this year’s annual campaign goal.
There are many unknowns about the long-term effect of these times on Jewish day schools. What educational and other changes that schools have made during this time will remain post-Covid? Will schools be able to retain the new families who came from public schools? Will there be lasting repercussions for schools that couldn’t meet their fundraising goals?
During this pandemic, Jewish day schools and yeshivas have demonstrated great value, resilience and commitment. My sincerest admiration and gratitude go toward all those who have worked so diligently to keep our schools and our children strong.