Showing posts with label Guest Post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Post. Show all posts

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The perils of a Hebrew Day School Education: Uniform Edition

The following is a guest post submitted by A. O’Reilly.  She is a Jewish mom with a little girl in preschool. They live in Canada (which explains the spelling variations that our American readers will notice). She runs a blog on Jewish culture and arts, called The Flying Shtetl

Much like many Catholic parents, Jewish parents who chose to send their children to religious schools do so because they are interested in having a substantial part of the curriculum contain references to the tenets of their religious belief, and in the case of Jewish schools, to Jewish holidays and practices that in the public setting are often condensed into ‘oh and then there’s Chanukah’ with a token dreidel or menorah on the classroom bulletin board.

Unlike in the USA, in Canada, Catholic schools are part of the ‘public’ school district. They are tax supported and free.  Jewish, Islamic, and private Christian schools do not fall under this umbrella, and the tuition at these schools can be extremely high. In other words, if you decide to send your child to a Hebrew Day School and you aren’t independently wealthy or you have more than one child, look to be making some sacrifices or investigating serious budgeting. And in addition to tuition and other extras (a 3 week trip to Israel anyone?), there are, of course, uniforms.

My child is currently a pre-schooler at a Hebrew Day School that includes preschool, junior and senior kindergartens, and grades 1-9. By the way, yes we’re Jewish, despite the surname. It’s a wonderful school. Very small class sizes (1/3 to 1/4 of the public average), lots of personalised attention, a schedule that rotates round Jewish holidays allowing less school days missed, and most important of all, an impressive, knowledgeable, friendly faculty and staff, dedicated to sharing Jewish culture, history, community, and values like chesed (respect) and tzedakah (charity) to all students. I love it. I love it. Did I mention I love it?

But what about uniforms? Since that’s what this blog is about, let’s talk uniforms, shall we? Personally, I love our uniforms, just like I love our school. They’re classy and smart. My kid looks like a doll in them and begs to put them on every morning. But, they are expensive. This year our basic outlay for uniforms was over $800 Canadian. That’s about $775-$780 in US dollars, before shoes. For a pre-schooler. Yikes.

All the pieces are logoed and must be purchased from a single provider located in another province, so there’s no shopping around. There are benefits and negatives to this.

Negatives? Did I mention I spent over $800? And that’s before we started losing socks and modesty shorts to the laundry monster, in week one, and realised that 2 formal tops and 2 daily wear tops weren’t going to cut it unless I wanted to be a slave to the washing machine.

Positives? All the kids uniforms are exactly the same, from top to socks. There’s no brand recognition, better or poorer quality, or anything else to set the kids apart. In fact, the uniforms are of outrageously good quality, which means if you have younger kids coming up in the school, you’re probably going to be set for a few years.

There were no numerical requirements for each item, but we are required to have at least one formal wear outfit, consisting of the pinafore, oxford, and cardigan or the kilted skort/kilt, oxford, and vest, regulation navy knee socks or tights, and black shoes and a daily wear option. Here’s an accounting of our beginning of year outlay and our first add-on order. I used Canadian dollars, but the US rate is currently close enough that it’s comparible.

  • 2 formal oxford shirts with school logo on sleeve, short sleeved ($26.50x2 = $53.00)
  • 2 polos, school logo on chest, short sleeved (24.75x2 = $49.50)
  • 2 tunic pinafores (Americans would call them jumpers), pleated, dark navy (42.00 x2 = $84.00)
  • 2 skorts, navy, pleated skirt in front style (25.50x2 = $51.00)
  • 2 cardigans, dark navy, school logo on chest (53.00 x2 = $106.00)
  • 1 vest, dark navy, school logo on chest (41.00 x1 = $82.00)                           
  • 1 polar fleece full zip jacket, logo on chest (40.00 x1 = $80.00)
  • 1 half zip sweatshirt, dark navy, school logo on chest (29.00 x1= 29.00)
  • 3 pair navy knee socks (6.00 x3 = $18.00)
  • 2 pair navy tights (12.00 x2 = $24.00)
  • 3 pair black modesty shorts, i.e. bike shorts basically (12.00 x3 = $36.00)

The polos and oxfords also have long sleeve options, but I chose short sleeved because my kid is always hot and thought with the cardigan plus long sleeves, she would be boiling. There is also a kilt option, and above grade 6, a plaid kilt and matching tie. Preschool and kindergarten girls can also wear trousers, but my kid likes the skirts. The trousers are dark navy, flat front, and cost $38.00 per pair. There is also a ‘rugby’ pant for this age group, unisex, which appears no different from the trousers other than the presence of a waist tie instead of a zip fly. These will run you $25.00 per pair. I’m not sure what the huge price discrepancy is. Maybe the button and zipper are made of gold. Ha ha!

Also required were trainers/gym shoes with non-skid soles (full gym kit not required until grade 1), and black or dark navy school shoes. For this I chose a pair of black converse with white bottoms ($31.99), and Lelli Kelly brand Mary Jane style shoes in black ($85.00).

  • 5 pair dark navy socks (6.00 x5 = $30.00)
  • 3 pair modesty shorts (12.00 x3 = $36.00)
  • 1 extra kilted skort ($25.50)
  • 1 long sleeve polo, logo on chest. ($24.75)

Then there’s tax (about 55.00 for the two orders) and shipping ($16.00)

Total: $884.75 (OMG) of which $799.75 was official wear, i.e. before the shoes, but I wanted good quality leather that would stand up to heavy wear.

How do I feel about this? 

First of all, broke. 

Second of all, not looking forward to grade 6 and above, when the price of the tartan kilts is $82.00 and there’s the addition of several ties at $16.00 each. That’s in today’s prices of course. In 6 years, who knows what they’ll be.

Third of all, however, I’m very thankful that I didn’t have to purchase any school supplies other than a backpack and lunch box, which my daughter already had. I ordered a tiny kid’s backpack from Germany. It wasn’t any more expensive than buying them here and they are the perfect size for a little one.

How does this fit into the big picture? If you want your kid to have a parochial education, especially a Jewish one, expect to pay. While the Jewish community does have some bursaries to help with tuition, there is no uniform assistance. It’s pretty much assumed that if you got in and your tuition is paid, the uniforms are a minor expense. Is it worth it? Hebrew Sunday schools or other after school or weekend programmes at synagogues can be very good and create a good sense of community, but there’s something about a full day school education that really instils Jewish values and reinforces community in a way that supplementary schools can’t. But, parents who can’t afford the tuition, the fees, the volunteer time, and the uniforms, can be blocked from this opportunity.

Do parents of parochial school children in the US face these same challenges? Or is the cost of a private education just not worth it? For me the answer is yes, it is. But I can see a lot of parents who would say no, or who sadly, would want to take advantage of the school, but simply cannot.