June 20, 2007
By NIRAJ CHOKSHI, Courant Staff Writer
In a bold start to a sweeping reorganization of Hartford schools, the board of education Tuesday night launched a plan to demolish one of the middle schools and replace it with one for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The board approved an application for state money to raze the Lewis Fox Middle School during the 2009-10 school year and build a new, $83 million building where students theoretically could spend their entire school careers.
In outlining the first phase of a five-year reorganization, Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski also detailed a plan to establish a ninth-grade academy in the fall at Hartford Public High School and discussed consolidating some schools and introducing 10 new schools based on varying educational models.
"If you were to argue these models on merits, you could make an argument for any one of them," Adamowski said.
Six of the 10 new schools would replace the district's worst schools, which will be announced in August after the district receives Connecticut Mastery Test scores. No locations have been announced for the remaining four new schools.
The 2007-08 school year will be spent planning the changes that will take effect in the 2008-09 school year, Adamowski said.
The only change planned for this fall is converting the third floor of Hartford Public into an academy housing the school's freshman class.
Everything the ninth-graders need, except for a cafeteria and gym, will be on the self-contained floor in an effort to isolate the class and reduce the dropout rate, which is highest among ninth-graders. After-school tutoring will be among the many support mechanisms in place on the floor.
"It is going to be very hard to fail," Adamowski said.
Fox Middle School, now home to nearly 800 seventh- and eighth-graders, would be replaced with a building housing 1,200 students. Eighty percent of the $83 million price tag would be state-funded.
The school would focus on college readiness with a liberal arts curriculum, and students would work at developing strong communication skills. Students also would explore topics they may pursue in college, such as finance, psychology, economics or urban studies.
Students also would have to compile a portfolio of work related to their chosen topic as a senior project and graduation requirement.
Among the 10 new school models that would be introduced in the 2008-09 school year are career technical academies at Hartford Public. Students in grades 10-12 would be able to choose one of as many as five topics, which may include nursing, journalism and media, horticultural science, culinary, forensics and advanced manufacturing.
The remaining 10 models are characterized by a range of objectives.
The core knowledge model, for example, is designed to help low-income students acquire the cultural literacy that wealthier students take for granted. The British Primary School model, dominant in the West Indies, is strict and academically rigorous, in contrast to the open-ended Montessori model.
The next steps will be taken at the August school board meeting when Adamowski will identify the five worst schools in addition to Hartford High, and board members will decide whether to move ahead with phase one of his plan.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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