HAMC says its future is right next door

HAMC says its future is right next door

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

The Nathan Bohrer-Abraham Kaufman Hebrew Academy of Morris County will hold a ceremonial ground breaking for a new building on Sunday, March 2.

It will simultaneously launch a capital campaign to raise $23 million. Of that total, $18 million will go into the new facility, and $5 million will go into an endowment fund for the school.

Instead of renovating its existing building in Randolph, administrators of the 51-year-old school — a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — have decided to build an entirely new building on a site adjacent to the current location.

“We offer an incredible education, but our building is getting old. It’s just not up to the standard of the education we have,” said Steven D. Levy of Morristown, who is cochairing the campaign with his wife, Beena. “The classrooms are all different sizes; they are not conducive to individualized learning, and they offer very little flexibility. Our public space is limited. We can’t have any sports events here because our fields are too small. We have no art studios,” he said.

The new building will be built on land purchased through a leading $15 million challenge gift from long-time HAMC benefactors Paula and Jerry Gottesman of Morristown. The Gottesmans have committed $8 million up front and $7 million in matching funds toward gifts from other donors.

The addition expands the campus from 12 to 17 acres. All required variances were approved by Randolph Township’s Board of Adjustment in December.

“It would have been almost as expensive to renovate the current building as to build an entirely new building,” said Steven Levy.

He said that the new structure will cost less to operate than the current one, according to estimates. “Lower operating expenses means more money for scholarships,” he said.

The new campus will feature a 35,000-square-foot building, 10,000 square feet larger than the current school. There will be four more classrooms, dedicated public areas, a larger dining area that will be known as the “commons,” and a sanctuary that can fit the entire student body.

The building will also include classrooms with breakout study rooms and flexible walls, a science center, a stage, a modern library, a gym with a full-size basketball court, a teaching resource center, regulation-size outdoor athletic fields, dairy and meat kitchens and a teaching kitchen, a community garden, and an art studio.

Space has been designated for an outdoor pool, should the school decide to add one at a later date.

The new building will also feature a green aesthetic — birch trees planted between buildings will bring the outside in, while glass walls will allow a visitor to see right through the communal spaces into the woods behind the school.

The building will also meet the requirements for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design silver certification. Buildings can be LEED-certified at different levels (silver, gold, platinum, etc.) by the U.S. Green Building Council. (The administration, however, has decided not to spend the extra money for the actual LEED certification process, which Levy estimated at about $100,000. “We’d rather spend the money on the building or on something educational. That was an easy one for us,” he said. “We’re absolutely committed to being as green as possible because it makes sense, not for a plastic star to hang on the wall.”)

To that end, also, solar panels are expected to provide about 75 percent of the school’s energy, while materials already on site will become part of the building, from using trees cut down to make furniture to pulverizing the existing building to provide a base for the parking lot. Some of the indoor areas will be created from recycled materials, and although the new building will have more space than the current one, its footprint will be smaller, thanks to the addition of a second story. In addition, the new campus will include a community garden, composting, and two rain gardens with native plant species.

Naomi Bacharach, the school’s director of marketing and development, said the plans for the public spaces will enable HAMC to serve as a gathering place for the Morris County Jewish community. She envisions the area being used for film festivals, PJ Library gatherings, youth group meetings, even a summer camp — part of the reason the site for the pool is part of the design.

So far, the school has raised gifts totaling $4.4 million toward the Gottesmans’ $7 million match, including major donations from Steven and Beena Levy; a second (unrelated) Levy family, Ken Levy, Laurie Levy, and their children; Sol and Meri Barer; and other benefactors.

That leaves just over $3 million more to raise to ensure that the school does not have to take out a mortgage.

The $5 million not designated toward the facility will become part of the school’s endowment, now estimated at more than $6 million.

Actual construction will begin in September 2014 and will continue through the academic year. Plans call for the new building to be ready for students in the academic year beginning September 2015. The current building will be razed during the summer of 2015, and the land will become part of the campus, mostly fields and a parking lot. Students will continue to use the current facility until the new one is completed.

The goal of the new building, according to the HAMC website, “is to stimulate, and then accommodate, continued enrollment growth and ensure the school’s future as a competitive, inspirational, top-quality Jewish day school that is a thriving anchor of Jewish life for Morris County and beyond.”

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