A home of its own: CCJDS welcomes students back to school in expansive new building

A donor once gave the Contra Costa Jewish Day School 1,000 children’s books. But the school had nowhere to put them.

Until now.

On Monday, Aug. 31, CCJDS students will start school in a brand new building — complete with an 8,000-square-foot library with plenty of room for those children’s books — plus another 7,000 volumes.


The school boasts a state-of-the-art science lab.

“There’s absolutely no question now that we’re an established school,” said Dean Goldfein, head of school since its founding in 2001.


CCJDS has grown from 21 students to 123 in kindergarten through eighth grade. The new facility in Lafayette increases the capacity for enrollment to 180 students — a communal need, as Contra Costa County has a growing Jewish population.

The school previously leased classrooms from Temple Isaiah, which made it the only Bay Area Jewish community day school without a permanent home.

That space was about 9,500 square feet, half the size of CCJDS’s new building. It is located just next door to Temple Isaiah, allowing for the shared use of resources such as the school’s library and synagogue’s social hall.

“Space is something we didn’t have before,” said Amy Wittenberg, director of admissions.

The new school has 11 classrooms, including a music and drama room, an art room and a state-of-the-art science classroom and lab.

Goldfein said the new science room will allow the school’s strong science curriculum to thrive. Also, the school intends to create an elementary science education mentoring program led by CCJDS science teachers, providing professional development to elementary teachers, many of whom don’t have extensive training in science education.


Head of school Dean Goldfein and Karla Smith, chair of the capital campaign, stand in front of the new Contra Costa Jewish Day School. photos/stacey palevsky

“We were able to make do before, but now we are able to expand our science program and have a higher level of hands-on experiments,” Goldfein said.


The facility provides CCJDS with more technology infrastructure, such as wireless Internet throughout the building, a PA system and ceiling-mounted projectors in each classroom.

There’s even a kosher dairy kitchen for school lunches and holiday celebrations.

All of the classrooms have expansive windows that provide a lot of natural light and look out onto either Mt. Diablo or the Lafayette reservoir. 

“One of the strengths of the site is its beauty,” Goldfein said. “We positioned the building to take advantage of that and let in much of our natural surroundings.”

The building is green and LEED certified with a roof that’s solar-ready. The structure contains recycled building materials, an elaborate storm water treatment system and eco-friendly climate controls.

A school and community garden is in the works.

The school launched a $9 million capital campaign, of which $8.2 million has been raised, to pay for the construction. Donors came from across the Bay Area, from parents and grandparents of students, as well as from a number of lay leaders with no children enrolled in the school.

A number of volunteers helped with the building’s capital campaign, design and construction.

Karla Smith, one of the school’s founders, led the fundraising campaign, and will continue to help raise money for the second phase of development. That includes a gymnasium with a rooftop play area and, eventually, a second school building to accommodate CCJDS’s future growth.

“We’re really developing a center for Jewish life,” Smith said.

Added Goldfein, “We really want the school to be part of a larger Jewish community, and now we can do that in more ways.”

For more information about Contra Costa Jewish Day School, visit www.ccjds.org


Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.