Ninth- and 10th-graders from 20 states arrive at the new campus on Jefferson Road.Students at the American Hebrew Academy settled into their dorm rooms Monday, said goodbye to their parents, then became the first students at the only Jewish boarding school in America.

Seventy-seven students from 20 states have enrolled at the private high school, said Rabbi Alvin Mars, the headmaster. The school, located on a sprawling $40 million campus on Jefferson Road, opened with ninth- and 10th-graders. Students pay no tuition this year.Grades 11 and 12 will be added, and enrollment will increase in future years.

Faculty welcomed the students with an invitation-only service Monday morning. Mars said they hung a mezuzah on the door of the dining pavilion. The mezuzah, an ornamental cylindrical box, reminds Jews of their obligation to fulfill God's commandments.

Classes begin Thursday, but not on campus. Students will meet at nearby Friendly Avenue Baptist Church until the classroom building is finished.

The Rev. Pat Cronin, the conservative congregation's pastor, said the church offered the space ``in the spirit of brotherhood.' Mars said the classroom building, along with two additional dorms, will open in six to eight weeks. Until then, he said, some students are living three to a room in the only open residence hall.

``It's sort of fun,' Mars said. ``We have a pioneering attitude.'\ \ Contact Margaret Moffett Banks at 373-7031 or

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