American Hebrew Academy will recruit more internationally ‘than ever before,’ executive director says

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The reopening of the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro surprised the community nearly as much as the school's sudden closure earlier this year.

On June 11, the Jewish boarding school, located at 4334 Hobbs Road in Greensboro, announced the closure on the school's website with one clear sentence: "The American Hebrew Academy is closed."

As of Sept. 13, the website now says, "Exciting News! The Academy will be reopening for the 2020-2021 school year."

The announcement added that the boarding and day students of all backgrounds are expected to be invited to apply for admission for 9th, 10th and 11th grade online. Executive Director Glenn Drew explained just what that means in his first interview since the school announced its reopening.

"We are going to be recruiting students now from more countries than ever before and more extensively across the United States as well," Drew said.

The American Hebrew Academy intends to use its international network to expand. He said this plan could mean growth for the Greensboro community, the state of North Carolina and the nation.

Drew said the AHA was oen of the only international Jewish college preparatory boarding schools in the world, but changing demographics meant fewer students enrolling.

The board of trustees made the difficult decision to close the school, at least temporarily, he said, which gave the school an opportunity to look at restructuring and refinancing.

The school was able to secure financing to reopen through Puxin Limited, a company out of China, and the campus was not sold.

The academy said in a Monday news release:

"Unlike the past, in which the Academy only enrolled students of Jewish heritage, the Academy’s highly acclaimed and rigorous college preparatory program will now be available to students of all nationalities, cultural and religious backgrounds. This change will allow a broad spectrum of local day students to attend the Academy alongside an increased enrollment of boarding students from across the United States and around the world. The Academy’s respected curriculum will continue to offer honors level, Advanced Placement (AP), early college and pre-career courses, as well as a new International Baccalaureate diploma option. In addition to the college preparatory curriculum, students will enjoy an expanded choice of elective courses in topics such as Introduction to International Business, Jewish Studies, Global Economies, Spanish, Chinese and Hebrew language, Entrepreneurship and Advanced Technologies."

The decision to resume 12th-grade classes for the 2020-2021 academic school year has not been finalized.

The prestigious boarding school closed after 18 years, hitting students first with confusion and then with heartbreak.

"All of the sudden, this one girl, she just screamed and started crying. She was like, 'Oh my god,'" Alex Frame said.

Frame was on the rising junior's class trip to Israel.

That scream set off a chain reaction of emotions for students on the trip, when they saw the email saying their school was closing.

"It was a domino effect from there of everyone just calling and crying to their parents," Frame says.

In June, Frame spoke with FOX8 from Israel to share how the American Hebrew Academy changed his life.

"Those were the best two years of my life and I was expecting two more. This was just sort of out of the blue," he said.

But some students knew the school struggled financially and with enrollment.

"We knew it was unstable, but we didn't think it would close this year. We thought if anything, it would close in the next 10 years, next 15 years," said Charlie Kapustin, a rising senior at the academy.

According to the school's 2016 tax filing, expenses topped $18 million but the revenue was just shy of $5 million.

Donations that year dropped from nearly $3 million to less than half a million.

The school tried to stay afloat by accepting international students from Asia.

Kapustin tells FOX8, when that happened, some students suddenly withdrew.

"The reason that some kids dis-enrolled is because of the non-Jewish kids coming to the academy," he explains. "Their parents are paying a lot of money for their kids to be at a Jewish school exclusively."

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