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School eyes permanent home

Rashi School weighs move to Dedham site

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent / May 22, 2008

Staff and students at the Rashi School are used to packing their bags, having already relocated six times in 20 years.

But a $5 million challenge grant and a new architectural vision may help the Jewish day school move from Newton to a permanent home on the Hebrew SeniorLife Intergenerational Campus in Dedham at routes 135 and 128.

Hebrew SeniorLife hopes the day school, which enrolls students in kindergarten through Grade 8, will become a focal point for interaction between children and seniors.

Dr. Miriam Adelson and Sheldon G. Adelson, international philanthropists who made the $5 million contribution designed to inspire more donations to the project, praised the plan to provide cross-generational learning and a modern school for the student body that now numbers 291 and is expected to grow to 360.

In a release, the Adelsons, who live in Las Vegas, stated that they hope the collaboration will ensure that future generations understand Jewish history and culture. "And we hope other members of the Jewish community will recognize the value of children learning in this special environment and support the school's campaign to build a new permanent home," added Sheldon Adelson, a Dorchester native who is a self-made billionaire businessman and owner of the Venetian casino and resort hotel.

The challenge has drawn in nearly $2 million, but another $10 million is needed to meet an estimated $34 million cost, according to school officials.

Matthew King, head of the Rashi School, said success depends on support not only from families of students and alumni, but the community as a whole. The school's intergenerational component is unique, he said. "As far as we know, it is the first of its kind in the country. This is the opportunity for a whole new experience for kids."

Rashi School officials also announced that architect Graham Gund of the Gund Partnership in Cambridge has been replaced, after proposed costs exceeded the budget. The firm also helped design the new Newton North High School, whose nearly $200 million price tag is a source of controversy in the city.

"We recently got a call that they had decided to move in a different direction, and we wish them well," John Prokos, Gund Partnership's managing principal, said, referring to the Rashi School. The company worked with Rashi for a decade on designs for other schools and has been involved with the Dedham plan since last summer, he said. The new designer, HMFH Architects Inc., has reduced the school's size and cut costs by $6 million, school officials said.

A decision to move to Dedham follows the trend of young, Jewish families moving south and west of Boston, school officials said. Once completed, the school will be a center for Jewish life and learning that also offers space for community meetings.

Slated for a fall 2010 opening, the new school, which will meet the environmental requirements to be called a "green" building, will offer top-notch technology in classrooms and science labs, a 10,000-volume library, assembly and performance halls, art studios and dedicated music rooms, community spaces for prayer and holiday celebrations, and a performing arts auditorium.

It will have a gymnasium, playgrounds, sports fields, rooms for before- and after-school programs, and a modern kitchen.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at mmbolton1@verizon.net.

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