Private School Primer

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When facing the dilemma of picking a private school, Baltimore offers a plethora of diverse choices. In fact, the challenge can be in limiting the many options to find the right fit for a child and his or her family.

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 through the process.

“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 admission at The Park School of Baltimore. “This is an opportunity to not only learn about schools and their distinctive features, but to also gain immeasurable insight into your child, your family and Baltimore, too.”

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.

Karen and Fred Jacobs are Pikesville parents of three whose children attended three different area private upper schools. They engaged their children in the decision-making process to find schools that catered to each child’s style.

“We considered each child independently and tried to match the culture of the school with our child’s personality, learning style and academic interests,” Karen said. “Since there are many private school options in Baltimore, it made sense to us to select the school where our children would be the happiest and most likely to  succeed and gain the education and skills necessary to excel in college. Our kids were actively engaged in the process and the decision was made jointly.”

For families who opt for a Jewish day school, Krieger Schechter Day School and Beth Tfiloh educate Jewish students to be active and  engaged citizens.

“We are privileged to bring together an incredibly diverse spectrum of Jewish community members,” said Beth Tfiloh’s Kott. “Our outstanding faculty devote themselves to integrating our rich Jewish values and traditions into both our rigorous general and Judaic studies curricula in so many creative ways. The Jewish values and morals that are instilled through every class and every experience at BT become part of who BT students are. This is an invaluable gift that children will gain from a Jewish education.”

“Jewish day schools offer a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for college, post-graduate study and the challenges of an ever-changing work world,” said Nissa Weinberg, director of admissions at Krieger Schechter Day School. “The challenging curriculum also provides a high level of academic confidence, a positive attitude toward learning and handling new information, and a foundation for engagement in Jewish life.”

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

At the Park School, progressive ideals and positive expectations are the foundation. “Our school was founded in 1912 with positive expectations of our students and respect for individual differences as central to our educational mission,” said Sachs Kalvar. “The pre-K to grade 12 curriculum is devoted to intellectual inquiry, experiential analysis and collaboration — essentials of 21st-century learning that have been part of our approach since our founding.”

McDonogh School in Owings Mills prides itself on strong faculty and high-caliber academics.

“McDonogh has many strengths but our greatest asset is our talented and caring  faculty,” said Steve Birdsall, director of enrollment management. “Our teache rs are experts in their chosen fields, and they truly enjoy sharing their knowledge and guiding our students along their  educational journey. Second to our faculty is our incredible  program full of opportunities  both in and out of the  classroom.”

At Krieger Schechter, the school emphasizes creating     confident leaders and critical thinkers within a welcoming community.

“We offer an exceptional academic program that is recognized by top high schools and, later, by highly regarded colleges and universities,”  said Weinberg. “Our teachers and administrators know each and every student: the physical, academic, intellectual, social-emotional,  athletic and artistic child. We know their families, their school friendships and what they need to achieve personal success.”

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.

“In my opinion, a family knows the fit is right when both the head and the heart align,” said Birdsall.

Anna Lippe is a local freelance writer.

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