EF Education First Announces Plans to Build New Athletic Field, Provide Parking Access for Stephen S. Wise at Bel Air Campus

The language-learning school under contract to purchase American Jewish University campus announces plans to work with neighboring Wise School
April 27, 2023
Courtesy EF Education First

This week, the school under contract to purchase American Jewish University’s Bel Air campus, announced plans for a future partnership with another major local Jewish institution: Stephen S. Wise Temple.

EF Education First, the international degree and language learning school that entered a contract to purchase the sprawling property from AJU last fall, announced this week that it plans to build a designated sports practice field on the campus grounds to benefit students and families at the Wise School, a Jewish elementary school housed at the Stephen Wise Temple. Both the Wise Temple and School are located adjacent to the EF Campus along Casiano Rd. in Bel Air.

The new athletic field, which EF plans to build next to the basketball court at the campus today, will be available for the Wise School to use for its flag football and soccer programs throughout the year. According to EF officials, the field will include new markings, fencing and nets and will provide easy parent access.

“EF is thrilled to provide the Wise School with a safe and convenient practice field that their students can use exclusively during their extracurricular programs for soccer and flag football,” said Shawna Marino, vice president at EF Education First. “We are incredibly impressed with Wise’s educational programs and the important role they play in this community.”

The updated facility will benefit more than just the Wise School’s athletic programs. According to an email released by Stephen S. Wise to its community this week, EF has committed to allowing the Wise Temple to use the facility at no cost for overflow parking during its historically well-attended holiday events, including its High Holiday commemorations, Purim carnival and Hannukah celebrations. The overflow parking could help alleviate parking challenges at the spatially constrained site in the hills above the 405 freeway.

According to the email, EF and Wise have been in conversations about the future of the Familian Campus since news broke of EF’s acquisition of the property last fall. The announcement that EF will build the new athletic field could mark a significant victory in a city in which construction remains difficult, often leaving the Jewish community without the updated resources it needs.

“This is a win-win. On the one hand, EF has the chance to do something neighborly that demonstrates its good intentions for the surrounding community. On the other hand, Stephen S. Wise gains access to sports facilities and parking that it needs in a way that will not impact the surrounding neighborhood,” said Ben Reznik, a partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell and veteran land use attorney.

EF offers language learning, educational travel, cultural exchange and academic degree programs, according to Marino. EF is seeking to use the Familian Campus—which will retain its name in a show of respect to the Sunny and Isadore Familian family—to house its fully accredited EF International Language Center. This program, Marino said, helps high school and college students from around the world gain English language proficiency through traditional classroom education and language immersion. EF currently operates 11 EF International Language Campuses in North America.

EF is optimistic that cooperation with Wise Temple, beginning with the construction of the athletic field, could lead to greater opportunities for exchange and collaboration that benefits and enriches student experiences at both campuses.

“At all of our EF schools, we create lasting neighborhood relations that we build and strengthen for decades to come,” said Marino. “We believe we share a lot of common educational goals and values with Wise and we are excited to explore ways we can work together.”

In an email sent to families this week, the Wise School seemed to concur.

“We feel fortunate to have a community-oriented potential new neighbor that will benefit our community,” said the Wise School in the email.

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