$100K grant will help Portland day school add students, programs

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PORTLAND — Levey Day School, founded more than 60 years ago, hopes to make a big investment in its future with the help of a $100,000 grant that will allow the school to add more than a dozen new students in the fall.

The donation is the largest in the school’s history.

David Freidenreich, president of the private school’s board, said Levey now enrolls 26 students and the plan is to increase that to 40. He said the school provides students from “a wide range of religious, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds” with a “challenging, personalized curriculum.”

With the grant funding, Freidenreich said Levey would be able to expand its Hebrew and Jewish studies program, as well as “strengthen foreign language instruction, better integrate general and Jewish studies, and further enrich Levey’s experiential Jewish learning program.”

“We (also) also plan to bolster the school’s robust general studies curriculum and its outstanding arts program,” he said. “In addition, grant funds will help us promote the school to prospective families, so that Levey will have the enrollment it needs to sustain its enhanced academic program for many years to come.”

Levey Day School, at 400 Deering Ave., is Maine’s only Jewish day school. It began as the Portland Hebrew Day School in 1952 and “serves Jewish and non-Jewish families alike,” according to Freidenreich. He said “students in all grades benefit from learning a foreign language, internalizing core values and exploring their own spirituality.”

Levey teaches pre-kindergarten through fifth grade in multi-age classrooms. Freidenreich said students “graduate with leadership skills and a lasting commitment to making a difference.”

Like all private schools, Levey charges tuition. However, Freidenreich said, “as part of its commitment to diversity of all kinds, the school provides sufficient financial aid. Every child who belongs at Levey should be here, regardless of the family’s financial resources.”

The $100,000 grant came from an anonymous source, but wouldn’t have been possible if, two years ago, the Levey School had not joined a fundraising academy created specifically for small, private schools by the Prizmah Center for Jewish Day Schools in New York City, Freidenreich said.

Through the academy, he said, “Administration and board members participated in workshops with schools around the country and worked with a designated coach to implement best practices in governance and fundraising.”

In order to qualify for the matching grant, Levey had to increase its fundraising by at least 10 percent from previous years. “We exceeded all of these requirements and will receive the maximum matching grant of $100,000,” he said.

The grant is the largest single gift in the school’s history, according to a press release. “The (granting) foundation and the dozens of donors whose support made this gift possible recognize the unique value of a Levey education,” Freidenreich said in the release.

“This donation will help Levey School become the school of choice for many families in the Portland area,” said Jeffrey Tremblay, the incoming head of school. “When prospective parents learn about Levey’s programs and our focus on the needs of each student, they will have no hesitation in joining this unique, up-and-coming school.”

Freidenreich said Levey focuses on the primary and elementary school years because they “are an especially formative period. Levey helps children develop enduring values, a love of learning, concern for one another and a deeply rooted sense of self-esteem.”

Overall, according to Freidenreich, “our students graduate with the interpersonal and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in middle school and far beyond.”

He called Levey a microschool where “our intentionally small size fosters personalized education, collaborative project-based learning and a nurturing community in which everyone knows and cares for everyone else.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Students at the Levey Day School in Portland prepare a science experiment with teacher Kimberly Berry. The school recently received a $100,000 grant that will allow it to increase enrollment and expand programs.

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