Finding the Right Private School

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When faced with choosing a private school, there are many factors to consider: location, cost, coed vs. single-sex, school philosophy and religious affiliation. Admissions directors recommend that prospective students and their parents visit multiple schools and keep an open mind throughout.

“While making a school choice can certainly be overwhelming, we recommend that you approach the admission process with a positive and enthusiastic mindset,” said Ruthie Sachs Kalvar, director of admissions at The Park School of Baltimore.


Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s director of admissions, Laurie Kott, recommends parents walk through the halls, visit classes and speak with parents to get a feel for the school’s community.

“It is important that parents understand the offerings when looking at schools and see the type of care and instruction their children will receive from the teachers,” she said.

For families who opt for a Jewish day school, Jewish values and traditions can be integrated into a rigorous general and Judaic studies curricula in creative ways.

“The challenging curriculum [at a Jewish day school] provides a high level of academic confidence, a positive attitude toward learning and handling new information, and a foundation for engagement in Jewish life,” said Nissa Weinberg, director of admissions at Krieger Schechter Day School.

While many area schools boast strong academics, nurturing environments, college-prep curricula and quality athletics and arts programs, each has its own approach and strengths.

Narrowing down the private school options can be a difficult decision, but thorough research and engaging the child in the process can make the choice less daunting. Overall, it’s about finding the fit that feels right. ♦

Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School

Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School (BT) began in 1941 with five students in the kindergarten class. Now, BT is home to 950 students, ages 2 through 12th grade, providing educational opportunities that can help each student “reach his or her full potential,” said Dr. Zipora Schorr, director of education at BT.

“[We are] Baltimore’s only co-education college preparatory Jewish day school that prepares students from preschool through grade 12 to meet local and global challenges of contemporary society,” said Schorr.

BT’s 20-acre campus hosts a preschool center with a movement room and playground; a lower school building with the Zimmerman gymnasium and dedicated art and music studios; a middle school building, home to the new Pollak Outdoor Learning Amphitheater; and a high school building with a state-of-the-art STEM Center with university lab-caliber equipment.

Experimenting in the STEM center

BT’s rigorous college-preparatory dual curriculum of Judaics and general studies incorporates technology through a school-wide computer network with high-speed Internet access; the STEM Center; a laptop computer program; fifth-grade classrooms with flip-top computer workstations and more.

“[Our] curriculum emphasizes content mastery, skill development, critical thinking, creativity, self-knowledge, positive interpersonal relationships, independence and love of learning in a nurturing environment,” Schorr said. “Cutting edge technology is integrated [with]in and supports the entire program.”

Extracurricular opportunities and elective options are many, to “help to tailor the educational program to the needs and interests of each student, according to Schorr.”

The students are BT’s primary focus. The school has an 18:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

“BT offers a child-centered educational approach with an emphasis on differentiated instruction and the success of each individual child,” Schorr said.

For more information, visit bethtfiloh.com or call 410-486-1900.

Garrison Forest School

Established in 1910, Garrison Forest School (GFS) is an all-girls school in Owings Mills.

There are currently 550 students enrolled, with a student-to-teacher ratio of 7:1. The school offers a co-ed preschool and boarding for national and international students in grades 8-12.

“Girls thrive at Garrison Forest School, where they can be their authentic selves as they create with purpose, pursue their passions and lead with confidence,” said Shelly Placek, director of communications and marketing.

The 110-acre campus features an outdoor classroom for younger students, state-of-the-art athletic fields and an equestrian center with nationally recognized riding and polo programs.

The school’s core values – be authentic, be brave, be compassionate, be curious and be spirited — are implemented throughout the school’s practices.

Some things that make Garrison Forest unique include:

  • The curriculum and approach to learning, tailored specifically to girls to help them succeed and thrive. The faculty make sure to get to know each girl and challenge them in a way that is supportive, encouraging and productive.
  • Not only do students live on campus, but some staff and faculty do as well, creating a unique sense of community.
  • There is a STEM program starting in the lower school, focused on “programming, technology and research, according to Placek. GFS partners with Women in Science and Engineering, or WISE, from Johns Hopkins University, giving upper school girls an opportunity to work in research labs alongside Hopkins mentors.
For more information, visit gfs.org., email [email protected], or call (410) 559-3111.

Gerstell Academy

Gerstell Academy (GA) is a non-sectarian co-ed private school specializing in leadership and value-based education, located in Finksburg, Maryland.

Situated on 250 acres of land, GA has four state-of-the-art academics buildings. There are currently 400 students enrolled in Pre-K through grade 12, making the student-to-teacher ratio 7:1.

GA has a diverse educational community, dedicated to providing a nurturing and mentoring environment where each student’s potential to become a leader, to learn, to grow morally, to be physically fit and to compete is maximized.

Gerstell provides a unique curriculum based on a leadership model, dedicated to developing young leaders who embrace Gerstell leadership principles and attributes. Students leave the school with the ability to think critically, be self-confident, be physically fit and be proficient in the Spanish language. Social skills are an important part of daily life at GA.

The school offers Advanced Placement coursework as well as college courses with their concurrent enrollment program; a variety of clubs and activities; and bus transportation. GA also offers competitive athletics in soccer, cross country, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse and baseball, and compete as members of the IAAM (Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland) for girls and the MIAA (Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association) for boys.

A major highlight of the academy is that 100% of graduates are accepted to four-year colleges and universities.

For more information, visit gerstell.org or call 410-861-3000.

Krieger Schecter Day School

Krieger Schechter Day School (KDSD) in Pikesville tied with fellow Jewish private school Beth Tfiloh for Best Private School in the JT’s Best of Baltimore 2018. Founded in 1981 and named in recognition of its major benefactor, the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, KSDS operates under the auspices of Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

KSDS is co-ed, covering grades K-8. There are currently 291 enrolled students, giving a teacher-to-student ratio of 9:1.
Consideration and kindness for others as Jewish values are touchstones at KSDS.

“Whether you call it menshlihkeit or derekh eretz, these values have their foundation in the Torah,” says the school’s website. “These values hold in our building, on the playing field and in the world beyond our walls. Our goal is not simply to teach good behavior, but to instill the Jewish ethics that are rooted in our history as a people and our understanding of God.”

In addition to values and ethics, KSDS distinguishes itself with its focus on customized learning, community service and Hebrew immersion — 8th graders even perform a Broadway musical entirely in Hebrew! At KSDS, the arts are a vehicle for self-expression, a way of enriching knowledge across the curriculum and a means for deepening each student’s connection to Jewish celebrations, observance and history.

KSDS welcomes families of all approaches to Jewish home life. However, the school does maintain a kosher facility. KSDS teaches the background, purpose and practice of kashrut, and presents keeping kosher as a mitzvah in daily life. The hot lunch program is run out of its kosher kitchen, and all children are permitted to bring dairy or vegan (parve) lunches and snacks to school.

For more information, visit ksds.edu or call 410-486-8640.

McDonogh School

McDonogh School began in 1873 as a farm and semi-military school for boys. Now, the school is a co-ed college preparatory school.

McDonogh’s 800-acre campus is home to academics, arts, athletics and equestrian facilities; the Fader Innovation Center, which hosts the robotics and engineering programs as well as an auto bay; and the Roots Farm, an outdoor classroom and agricultural space that “brings students into contact with the natural world” and honors the school’s start as a farm school, according to Meredith Bower, associate director of communications.

McDonogh is open to students from Pre-K through 12, with 1,407 current students. McDonogh also offers a five-day residential life option to upper school students, where students can live on-campus during the week.

The school’s LifeReady Academic Plan is “the school’s ongoing dedication to graduating young people of character who are equipped to face the future and be a force for good in it,” said Bower. Students are taught in a “deep, authentic, integrated and collaborative” way that ensures they are excited to learn, are presented with “real-life challenges and questions” in the classroom and learn teamwork.

The school emphasizes “close, compassionate relationships” between students and teachers, with class sizes at around 16 students per class. The school has a 7:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

“McDonogh’s commitment to excellence and diversity is our strength,” said Bower. “Steeped in tradition with an eye toward the future, we are a welcoming community where young people in grades PK-12 become ‘LifeReady’ under the guidance of talented and caring teachers.”

For more information, visit mcdonogh.com or call 410-363-0600.

Park School of Baltimore

The Park School of Baltimore first opened its doors in September 1912 on Auchentoroly Terrace, across from Druid Hill Park. The school can now be found on Old Court Road, where it has been since 1959.

The student-to-teacher ratio at Park is 7:1, with 811 students enrolled for the 2019-20 school year. Park is a non-sectarian, co-ed, gender-inclusive school, offering pre-kindergarten (age 4) through grade 12.

Park chose to be non-sectarian to accommodate Jewish students, who were either subject to a quota system or unwelcome at other private schools.

Park’s mission statement, as stated on the school website, best describes their focus:

“Devoted to intellectual inquiry, a collaborative spirit of learning, and an appreciation for the diversity of human experience, The Park School of Baltimore is a community founded on positive expectations of our students and respect for individual differences. We cultivate children’s innate curiosity by nurturing their interests and engaging them as active participants in their own education.”

Park is unique in their approach of not “teaching to the test.” As a result, students are able to leave Park with a plethora of knowledge and confidence, making them ready to excel in college and prepared to become productive, responsible citizens of the world.

For more information, visit parkschool.net or contact admissions at [email protected].

Roland Park Country School

Roland Park Country School (RPCS), founded in 1984, is an independent school for girls going into grades K-12 that prides itself on being “a place of profound and hands-on learning.” RPCS also has a co-ed preschool called Little Reds.

Home to 580 students, the school has a 6:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

“[RPCS has] a rich history of dedication to the intellectual and moral development of its students,” said Emily Cooke, director of strategic communications. “We believe that young women who build each other up will thrive.”

At RPCS, no goal is out of reach and no hurdle is too high for their students – not when they have the “collective support of her community lifting her towards her goals,” according to Cooke.

This falls in line with the school’s teaching strategy: to provide a rigorous education and teach girls that their potential is limitless. As a result, RPCS students “develop a profound understanding of who they are and how to lead together to impact the world,” said Cooke.

In addition to 50 clubs and organizations, RPCS offers five “Signature Programs,” academic programs outside the regular academic curricula that provide students extra opportunities to learn. These programs include the Leadership & Entrepreneurship Institute, Tri-School Coordination, the World Languages Certification Program, Integrated Math and the STEM Institute.

“Our unique Signature Programs allow students to shape their own learning,” Cooke said.

For more information, visit rpcs.org or call 410-323-5500. 

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