WESTBROOK — United Way of Greater Portland has selected Canal School for a pilot program that partners schools with businesses to help boost students’ reading skills.

Portland-based accounting firm Baker Newman Noyes has “adopted” Canal with the goal of providing extra activities for children who cannot read at their grade level. One of United Way’s missions in the area is to have all students read at grade level by third grade.

“They adopted the Canal School for the year and will be providing volunteer time and business partnerships throughout the year, and that’s getting off the ground,” Superintendent Peter Lancia said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Canal and Brown Elementary School in South Portland, which has been partnered with Dead River Oil, are the first schools in the Thrive Partners for Children program, selected based on demographics and need. Their participation and feedback will help shape the program.

Specific plans have not been set, but Baker Newman Noyes likely will sponsor events and provide volunteer time, including having employees read to students,  said Canal Principal Vicky Hebert.

“We’ve done a lot of pre-work for it, but we have not met with them yet. In the next couple of weeks, we will be talking about what we are looking at for the school and what they would provide us around that goal,” Hebert said. “It’s a partnership and we will work together on that.”

Anna Fincke, Baker Newman Noyes’ chief operating officer, said the company hopes the program will continue after this year.

“We didn’t want the program to run just one time. We wanted to see if there is a way to do this and create a model that allows it to be repeatable,” she said. “We came together with United Way and hired on a consultant to help us engage with the schools, superintendents and the community to figure out how to put something like this together.

“This fall is the pilot of it, and we are testing out this tool kit. …. We are really excited,” she said.

 

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