Epstein to lease classroom space to JCC

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Infants and toddlers in the Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood Education Program in Creve Coeur will have a temporary new location later this fall at the H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, while the JCC undergoes renovations.

The H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy and the JCC reached an agreement to lease space at Epstein for about 50 infants and toddlers enrolled in the JCC’s Early Childhood Education program.

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The JCC needed the space because the Early Childhood Education program’s current home, the Susan B. Jacobs Building, will be demolished to make way for the construction of a new health and fitness center on the Creve Coeur campus, said Margaret Schatz, marking director for the JCC. The demolition of the building is part of the overall plan to renovate and construction JCC facilities.

While other Early Childhood Education classes will be relocated within the JCC facilities on the I.E. Millstone Jewish Community Campus, three classrooms, serving students under two years of age, will be moved to Epstein, hopefully by late October, Schatz said. The lease agreement is for a one-year period, with the option for an additional 18 months.

About 14 or 15 JCC staff members will work out of the Epstein space, she said.

Epstein school officials and the Epstein Board formed a task force with the professional assistance of Steven Mirowitz of Mirowitz Realty and the law firm of Thompson Coburn to consider leasing the space.

Rabbi Shmuel Kay, head of school at Epstein, said the school’s board looked at the task force’s findings, and approved the lease agreement over the summer.

Rabbi Kay said the school will not charge the JCC rent, but the JCC will share utility costs. In addition, the JCC will pay for $100,000 in renovations of the area of the school being leased. The JCC will be utilizing a space on the lower level of the school, north of the entrance to the cafeteria, which Epstein previously used for its preschool, which will be moved upstairs.

The space for the JCC program will have its own entrance, accessed by door from the outside directly to the lower level of the school.

“At Epstein, we’re going to have our own wing, dedicated to the JCC Early Childhood Program. We’re going to coexist with the Epstein community,” Schatz said.

Rabbi Kay said, “They will have their own program, completely separate from ours, with just a bit of overlap.”

The JCC is already working on renovating the space at Epstein to include three classrooms and a small office space. Much of the work involves meeting licensing requirements for day care centers, Rabbi Kay said.

“All of the work they are doing will ultimately be good for the school overall,” Rabbi Kay said.

In a letter to Epstein officials sent to parents in August, Rabbi Kay and Epstein Board President Douglas M. Baron, wrote that Rabbi Kay had contacted a posek, or Jewish legal authority, to resolve any potential halachic conflicts that might arise from leasing the space to the JCC. The posek issued a p’sak, or halachic ruling, that the terms of the lease were permissible.

Schatz said that once the renovations are completed, and the space is inspected and certified to meet licensing requirements, the JCC will begin utilizing the space, possibly by the end of October.

Schatz said Epstein has been a “wonderful community partner.”

“We are very thankful that they have opened their doors, so to speak, to help our students to be able to continue with their JCC programs over at Epstein,” she said.

Rabbi Kay said he has received positive feedback from parents and staff about leasing space to the JCC. “I think people are generally very happy that we’re able to work together with the JCC,” Kay said. “I’ve even had a couple of parents who say they have kids in both the JCC program and here at Epstein. So now they’ll be dropping everyone off and picking them up at the same place.”

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