Cross-Cultural Academy In Hartford Is One Of Two New Charter Schools
August 26, 2006
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
When a new charter school opens in Hartford next month, students can expect to study math, reading, history - all the usual subjects - but their classroom, as likely as not, will be a theater stage, an art studio or a museum.
The school will open in collaboration with partners such as Hartford Stage, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Hill-Stead Museum, with a curriculum designed to tap into the natural curiosity of children.
"Everything will be taught through the arts - science, reading, math, geometry, whatever," said Augustine Cofrancesco, one of the founders of the Cross-Cultural Academy of Arts & Technology.
The school, starting with fifth- and sixth-graders this year, will eventually include students in grades 5-12 from Hartford and other municipalities in the region. It is modeled after a regional arts-oriented program that Cofrancesco and others have operated at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain over the past 11 years.
"The arts are great motivators," said Cofrancesco, chairman of the arts and technology department for Farmington Public Schools. "Students have to demonstrate proficiency in a public forum ... dancing on stage, performing music for an audience, doing art exhibits."
Officials so far have signed up about 30 fifth- and sixth-grade students, though they have room for about 100. Open house meetings for interested parents and students are scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hartford Stage in Hartford.
"We're trying to get the word out. We believe in school choice, and this is a choice," Cofrancesco said.
The Cross-Cultural Academy is one of two new charter schools opening in Connecticut this fall. The other is Park City Prep, a math- and science-oriented charter in Bridgeport.
Charters are part of a national reform movement designed to encourage innovation by allowing educators, community leaders and entrepreneurs to operate publicly supported schools without many of the regulations governing traditional public schools.
Connecticut now supports 16 small experimental public schools that operate under a 10-year-old state charter law.
The Cross-Cultural Academy will open in two locations in Hartford's Parkville neighborhood, including classrooms at 237 Hamilton Place and studio space at 30 Arbor St.
But much of the teaching will take place outside the school. Students will work and study with musicians, artists and educators during classes at nearby cultural institutions and colleges.
"Through the creating of works of art and analysis and looking at works of art, students develop critical thinking skills that assist them in other forms of learning," said Nicholas Ruocco, a Wadsworth Atheneum official who has worked as an adviser to the charter school. "We do a lot at this museum with writing and art."
The school will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. To allow time for projects, the school day will be organized around two lengthy class periods of 4½ hours each, one emphasizing linguistics and cultural arts and the other focusing on math, science and applied arts. Students will also have optional studio and study time before and after school.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at