Hiam Sammara, a kindergarten teacher at the Islamic School, helps Samia Harb, 6, with her Arabic lesson.
A ringing school bell, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the al-Fatihah, the opening prayer of the Qur'an, begin the day for the dozen students at the Islamic School of Greater Toledo.
Opened last fall, the school offers Arabic lessons, Islamic teachings, and regular instruction in language arts, math, science, and social studies along with art, health, and physical education at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, 25877 Scheider Road, PerrysBurg Township.
With kindergarten through fourth-grade students this year, the school will add a grade, some students, and a teacher next year, Principal Sadel Abdallah said. The Islamic Center has rooms used for weekend schools, so appropriate space is ready.
Adam Saie, 9, working on a math problem with teacher Nabeela Hamdan, is at the Islamic School because it provides a connection to his Lebanese heritage.
“It was planned with classrooms when they built it,” Dr. Abdallah said.
Rabha Saie, whose son Adam is a third grader, was grateful when the school opened in August. “We've been wanting this school for years,” she said.
Adam, 9, was successful in public schools, she said, but the Islamic school offered better ties to his Lebanese heritage. “I really want him to learn the religion, the language,” she said.
Classroom books, teaching tools, and posters are typical of any elementary school except for some of the Arabic lettering and religious references. Geography lessons are prevalent.
Tuition was $2,500 annually for one student this year but will be reduced by $500 next year. The center supports much of the school's $120,000 budget, Dr. Abdallah said.
The children who attend, dressed in white, blue, or gray shirts and khaki pants, are from families who worship at the mosque at the center.
“Just like the reasons they'd go to any parochial school, maybe they're looking for more values, more faith-based values, and they know us,” said Cherrefe Kadri, past president of the center.
Transportation is the biggest problem for the school. Students come from as far away as Sylvania and, with no school busing, parents must drive them.
Next year, Dr. Abdallah said, the school will have state money to fund some transportation.
The school's small size is both an advantage and a drawback. With three teachers, a principal and school secretary, the children get plenty of one-on-one time for instruction and attention.
But Ihsan Ahmed worries her son, Rommy, isn't meeting as many children as he would in the public schools.
To make up for it, Rommy plays soccer and basketball in his home suburb of Sylvania.
The advantage of the close contact at school is worth any drawbacks, his mother said. “We're here every day picking up our kids. We're always interacting with the teachers so we always know what's going on,” she said.
An open house is planned for Sunday.