Two New Magnet Schools Planned For 2013-14

by Categorized: Christina Kishimoto, Schools Date:

The Hartford area is already the land of magnet schools. The Sheff vs. O’Neill desegregation case mandates that the state create integrated settings for Hartford children, and so the state has tried reaching court-ordered targets with new magnet schools and an Open Choice program that enroll a mix of city and suburban students.

The state failed to meet Sheff goals under the current agreement, which expires this school year. While state education officials, Sheff plaintiffs and Hartford school leaders continue to negotiate an extension behind closed doors, one piece of their deal has been made public.

In the 2013-14 school year, there will be two new magnet programs in the Hartford school system: The Montessori Magnet School at Moylan and a Hartford pre-kindergarten magnet school for children who are 3 and 4.

The Hartford school board voted unanimously last night to approve developing those programs. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said marketing to parents will begin “immediately.”

The Montessori program at Moylan School already exists and has 100 students whose ages range from 3 to 8, including five children who don’t live in Hartford but attend the program through Open Choice, said Moylan Assistant Principal Carolyn Potoff, who oversees the Montessori curriculum.

Magnetizing the school will add 63 seats for the 2013-14 year, most of them for suburban students. At least 25 percent of students at a Sheff school must be white to meet integration guidelines.

It’s very possible that Moylan’s Montessori program — located in a corner of the Moylan building — could move to new space with the expanded enrollment. “We’re currently running out of room,” Potoff said. [UPDATE: The magnet school will have a new location for the 2013-14 year. Administrators say the Montessori program has already outgrown its space at Moylan.]

The pre-kindergarten magnet school will enroll 180 students — 90 from the city — for the coming year and will be located at Betances STEM Magnet School, which opened last August. While Betances STEM is currently housed at the Betances neighborhood school building on Charter Oak Avenue, it won’t be for long.

The school board also voted Tuesday to accept an additional $600,000 in state funds to lease a new location for Betances STEM in downtown Hartford, near the Connecticut Science Center, for 2013-14. (Hartford has already been given $300,000 for that move, administrators said.)

Hartford school officials aren’t ready to name that location.

“We’re exploring sites right now,” said Don Slater, Hartford schools’ chief operating officer.

It’s unclear how much the state plans to spend on these new Hartford magnet programs. Kishimoto estimated that the confidential Sheff negotiations will continue for another several weeks.

Schools spokesman David Medina noted that the Hartford school system will be operating 17 magnet schools next academic year.

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