Addlestone Hebrew Academy breaks ground on new building

A rendering of the new building for Addlestone Hebrew Academy shows the new 28,000-square-foot two-story building which is projected to open for the 2015-2016 school year.

It isn't so much the new building under construction at Addlestone Hebrew Academy that school officials are excited about but the enhanced educational experience they hope the state-of-the-art space will provide to students.

The private Jewish school celebrated the groundbreaking of its new multimillion-dollar building Thursday with a ceremony and dinner for faculty, students, parents and the public. The Jerry and Anita Zucker Family Foundation is constructing the 28,000-square-foot building at a cost of more than $8 million on the campus of the Charleston Jewish Community Center in West Ashley. The academy is leasing the building from the foundation.

The school currently shares space with the center. The new building, which will be just for the academy, is being constructed on vacant land on the center's campus. Abby Levine, the academy's principal, said that while the school currently has more classrooms than the 13 that will be in the new building, the space is not being used efficiently. The new building will feature dedicated rooms for music and art as well as a stage for performances. Other features in the building will include a science, technology engineering, art and mathematics lab, a media center and kosher kitchens.

The new building also will allow the school to grow its enrollment from around the 140 students it has today up to 250 students, Levine said. The school serves students in grades K-8 as well as children from ages 18 months to four years old.

The academy was founded in 1956 in connection with the Brith Sholom Beth Israel Congregation on Rutledge Avenue in downtown Charleston. It moved to its current location at the Jewish Community Center in 1987.

"Everything is just going to be new and bright and shiny, and it's going to be a wonderful home for our school," said Phyllis Katzen, chairwoman of the academy's Board of Trustees. "This has been created with our student body and our teachers in mind."

Katzen said the new building won't change the school's philosophy, but it will provide an opportunity to give students a better education.

"As we've moved along, it's time for us to be on an independent campus in a state-of-the-art school to help our students grow academically," she said.

Site work for the new building has already begun. The new building is expected to open in the fall of 2015.