An Alexandria rainbow has made the leap from the past to the present and, hopefully, the future. Keshet Child Development Center, after operating 28 years in Alexandria's Beth El Hebrew Congregation Temple, has found a new home for the 2007-08 school year and beyond in Arlington at 758 S. 23rd St.
Keshet, which means "rainbow" in Hebrew, is a pre-school for children 2 to 5 that offers "a learning environment that nurtures a love for, and an understanding of, Jewish heritage, traditions and values," according to its director Ilisa St. Pierre.
Last winter they were informed that their long-standing lease at Temple Beth El, 3830 Seminary Road, would not be renewed. "We looked for a new suitable home for a long time. We looked at so many properties, I've lost track, but this is such a great space, in a great neighborhood, dedicated to us," said St. Pierre.
"I'm excited to have found not just a suitable home for Keshet but a space that fits our needs so well. Now that we will no longer be sharing our space, we will be able to offer other programs to our parents, including extended hours, more enrichment classes, parents' nights out, and space for birthday parties," she said.
The new school is located about four and a half miles northeast of its previous location. Since the school draws students from a wide area of Northern Virginia most of the current families will continue to support Keshet, according to St. Pierre.
"I am sticking with Keshet even though the new location is a little further from my home," said parent Debbie Moser. "My oldest son graduated from Keshet, my middle son will graduate in June, and my daughter will start in the fall," she said.
"I love the sense of community with other parents and students. The school is like another home for us. We would follow them anywhere," Moser said.
"The important thing is that Keshet will be open for business this fall. We will continue our outstanding curriculum, the students will continue to be nurtured and grow, and we will continue serving the community as we have for more than a quarter century — and we'll do it all from our very own home," St. Pierre said.
KESHET CHILD Development Center is a Jewish pre-school, though children from all faiths are welcome, according to St. Pierre. It enrolls children from birth to age five with a teaching program designed to serve the needs of each child.
The school's goal is to increase students' awareness of the world in which they live through a program that encourages social, emotional, educational, and physical development, according to St. Pierre.
After 28 years at Temple Beth El, the decision was made by the Temple's Board of Directors at their Dec. 21, 2006 meeting to terminate the school's lease. According to John Jankowski, Board president, as stated in the Board newsletter at that time, "The Beth El Board, by a vote of 21 to three, agreed to create an Early Childhood Extended Day Care Program in partnership with the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia."
The proposed preschool will be located at Beth El and is expected to begin operation this fall. Keshet's current lease expires in July.
"This decision was made because an opportunity arose for Beth El to partner with JCC for a combined day care and pre-school. It was a great opportunity to expand both a day-care and pre-school that we couldn't turn down," Jankowski said in an interview at that time.
That rationale was buttressed by Temple Beth El Rabbi Brett Isserow. "We have been considering a full day care as well as a pre-school at Beth El for some time. When we spoke with JCC it seemed an incredible opportunity for us," Isserow acknowledged at the time Keshet was notified of their lease cancellation.
"This also enables [Beth El] to be part of the school instead of just a rentor. [Keshet has] maintained their independence and have viewed us primarily as the landlord. Neither side really put forth an effort to change that dynamic," Isserow said last winter.
Keshet occupies approximately 3,500 square feet on two levels at the rear of Temple Beth El. They employ 12 staff — 10 teachers plus St. Pierre and an administrative staff member.
There are 55 pre-schoolers enrolled in the regular program plus an additional seven in the "Mommy and Me" program for toddlers. They operate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tuition varies from $359 to $843 depending on number of days. Pre-Kindergarten is $955 for Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"We have always offered discount tuition rates to Beth El members. It really came down to the fact that [Beth El] wanted control over curriculum, educational methods and school finances," St. Pierre said at the time of the lease cancellation.
St. Pierre said the new school will formally relocate over the summer. However, interested parents can meet with her to learn more about the school and its programs on May 22 at 10 a.m. at the school's current location at Temple Beth El, 3830 Seminary Road. Interested parents should call 703-370-9358.