A Floor AND a Ceiling (and furniture and tech and paint)

So…it is June and you are probably wondering where are all the signs of pending construction if this project is scheduled to begin the first week in July?  That is a reasonable question and one I’ll answer here.

Let’s first dip back in time to when we first made the announcement of a $1.5 million gift to transform classrooms and learning spaces at OJCS.  Ever since, we have been working hard with our friends at Figurr on design and costing.  There is no question as to which of those two has been more fun!  COVID, time and inflation have not been on our side as we only have limited windows of time for construction and costs have gone up.  Heading into 2022-2023, we believed that we were on track for this project – now split into two phases and with $2 million pledged from the extraordinary, generous and anonymous donor – with Phase I ready to begin this summer.  We finalized the base building needs, the overall design, and much of the tech and furniture; we hired a general contractor, secured permits and bid out the work.  We even figured out contingency planning for when the work (inevitably) goes long and classes need to be held in alternative locations.  We got close to being able to pull it all together to trigger construction on July 1…but not close enough.

As we were finalizing all the “this needs to be true”s for Campus, the school, teachers, families, etc., it became clear that trying to rush for a July 1 start date left too many opportunities for mistakes on a project too important not to get completely right.  And so that means what you might imagine it means.  Mostly.

Instead of launching Phase I – which is intended to include a complete transformation of the first floor, lobby and hallways, as well as classrooms, ceilings, walls, lighting, and lockers AND furniture, tech and paint across the whole school – the first week in July and planning for the first floor to relocate for this August and September, we are now planning to launch Phase I in May 2024, relocating classes for (possibly) part of May and June so that it is completely ready by the first day of school in 2024-2025.  (Phase II would look to launch the summer of 2025.)  We’ll have much more detail about this “relocation” and what it means once we get into next year.

Are we disappointed?


How will we mitigate that disappointment?

Partly by doing a much better job sharing high-quality renderings of the work around school and on our website.  Partly by investing students and teachers in the furniture and tech selection now that we have more time to work with.

Should we anticipate future delays?

We can’t completely predict the future, but certainly when it comes to “Phase I” I do not anticipate additional delays.  There is no reason to believe that we will not begin this project on the new timeline in the way I have described.

As much as it would have been nice to start our 75th Anniversary Year in partially new digs, there is also a nice symmetry to launching our renovation as a capstone to our 75th Anniversary Year and a bridge to what we hope will be our next 75 years.  We know that most important learning is what happens inside and outside the walls, not the wall themselves.  We also know that schools in disrepair are the ones who make those claims.  Our students deserve a physical learning environment on par with the excellence we provide and aspire towards in every other part of our program.  And they will have it, and have it soon.

Just not as soon as we had hoped.

We will do a better job keeping you updated on this project, including what to expect come next May when we formally launch.  In the meanwhile, you will have greater access to designs and samples and should you have any questions, concerns, feedback or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.  I look forward to a North Star that is not just about floors with no ceilings, but floors with ceilings, hallways with appropriate lockers and learning nooks, classrooms with appropriate furniture and technology, and a school that looks as innovative as it educates.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.