The name and location have changed, but a rigorous private middle school for Hartford boys will still open next fall in the city. This is good news; the more positive options for city youngsters, the better.
When initially envisioned, the working name was Nativity Preparatory School and the site was the former M. Swift & Sons gold-leaf factory building in the North End. But as the project evolved, board members came to realize that renovation of the building would be prohibitively expensive and that the name might wrongly suggest the school had a Christian affiliation.
So the official name is Covenant Preparatory School of Hartford, and it will be located in the YWCA Building at the corner of Broad Street and Farmington Avenue.
The school is part of the nationwide NativityMiguel network of some 65 private, Jesuit-inspired (some schools have a church affiliation; some do not), tuition-free middle schools for youngsters from low-income families. The Hartford school, modeled on one that opened at the Jesuit Mission Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1971, is demanding of students and parents. The school day is up to 12 hours, with field trips and community service on Saturdays. The curriculum includes Latin. Parents are required to volunteer at the school. The idea is that the kids will succeed, go to top-tier high schools and colleges, and come back for a time and teach at the school.
The school expects to open for fifth- and sixth-grade boys — no more than 15 in each class — this fall, then add a grade in each of the next two years, said Head of School Patrick Moore.
It will be nondenominational, as the Covenant name suggests, open to students of all faiths. Once the boys' school is established, the plan is to open a girls' school.
When most of the city's Catholic schools closed, city youngsters were the losers. The magnet and charter schools inspired by the Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit have re-created choices for some children.
So does Covenant. For the youngsters and families who can handle the work, it can be the choice of a lifetime. It's a pity this approach to education is so unusual.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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