In a move threatening the vitality of the Howard County Jewish Community School, Temple Isaiah announced last week that it plans to breakaway to form its own school in September.
"We want our own school," said Lester Feldman, president of Temple Isaiah, located in Columbia. "It's turned into some sort of controversy. But if you look around, most temples and churches have their own school. It started to seem like the appropriate time."
The community school, operating on a $250,000 annual budget, is now comprised mostly of two participating synagogues -- Temple Isaiah and Columbia Jewish Congregation -- which contribute a total of 3 percent of the budget. Members pay to send their children for religious studies on weekday afternoons and Sunday mornings at The Oakland Mills Meeting House and Oakland Mills Middle School.
Approximately 400of the school's students -- roughly two thirds of its student body -- are from Temple Isaiah. Another 200 are from Columbia Jewish Congregation. A "handful of unaffiliated students from Laurel, Silver Spring and Catonsville" participate, Michael Jacobs, the school's president, said.
The community school has called an informal meeting tonight for parents at The Oakland Mills Meeting House to discuss the proposed changes.
Members of Temple Isaiah will meet Wednesday eveningto vote on their board of directors' plan to split from the community school.
Jacobs doubts all Temple Isaiah members favor forming a separate school.
If it occurs, he anticipates that "the transitionwill be accomplished in a friendly, fair manner by all involved parties."
"While I hope that those parents who support the community school concept would want to continue to send their children to our school, I fully support their right to set up a separate school and determine a course for their children's education," Jacobs said.
Temple Isaiah's Feldman would not discuss the proposal's status or how itcame about. "This is a very private affair, whatever the internal workings are."
Ultimately, he said, the fate of the school is the hands of parents. "The parents are the owners of the school. The schoolwill be their decision and will be determined by how many would register at our school. If the members don't want something, it won't happen. They're paramount."
It is not yet known whether Temple Isaiahwill mandate that its students attend its school.