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Richmond private school co-locates with Jewish school, averts closure

Pythagoras Academy and the Richmond Jewish Day School are creating adjoining schools for the upcoming school year.
Pythagoras Academy is offering K to 5 programming at its new adjoining school with the Richmond Jewish Day School.

"Pythagoras Academy is not closed!"

A Richmond private school facing the fate of temporary closure after losing its location has come up with an innovative way to stay open for the upcoming school year.

The Richmond News reported earlier this month that Pythagoras Academy on Odlin Crescent would close for one year amid its search for a new location.

The school had been renting its current location and its previous attempt to move to No. 5 Road, along Highway to Heaven, was denied by Richmond city council. Things came to a head this year when lease negotiations with the landlord broke down.

But the school won't have to close after all, as just two weeks later, Pythagoras Academy has managed to partner with the Richmond Jewish Day School to form adjoining schools on Highway to Heaven.

Due to limited resources, the school will only offer K to Grade 5 programming rather than JK to Grade 8 for the upcoming year.

The schools will share the Jewish Day School's facilities at 8760 No. 5 Rd. while still maintaining two different schools, Pythagoras Academy head of school Michael Bouchard explained. The goal is to form a long-term partnership.

"We're not trying to have anything other than a collaborative relationship. ... We're not trying to join into one school," he added.

"We're not trying to separate the playground where the children would never play together, but we're trying to introduce them to each other and then just foster that kind of deep respect where you don't have to be like the other, but you have lots of respect and curiosity."

The model of adjoining schools is not new in Canada, Bouchard said, though it is innovative.

One part of sharing facilities will include the addition of Pythagoras' greenhouse to the Richmond Jewish Day School. Pythagoras will be footing the moving costs, but all students will be welcome to use it.

"It's beautiful to exist with different ways of viewing the world and then show how harmonious you can be. I think the world needs more of that," he said.

Relocating to Highway to Heaven

Although city council voted in 2020 to prohibit future school use on Highway to Heaven, it will not be affecting the new adjoining school arrangement, said Bouchard.

"We're not buying land from the Richmond Jewish Day School. It's their site, so we're joining with them. ... They've been licensed to operate (for education) within their classrooms and are complying with all the city regulations," he explained.

"So nothing really is different than, instead of a Richmond Jewish Day School student in a classroom that already complies, they'll now be a Pythagoras Academy one."

Bouchard added Pythagoras got a green light from the Federation of Independent School Associations in B.C. for the new arrangement. 

In the future, though, Pythagoras is still hoping to pursue a farm school on the Agricultural Land Reserve property it purchased on No. 5 Road.

"We had the perfect plan, because we would be on the front part of that property and pay $800,000 to transfer the back into farmland at our cost. And so now it's just sitting there," Bouchard explained.

With enough community support and a better understanding of the needs of that area, Pythagoras is working toward bringing the plan back to the table.

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