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Hartford Journalism And Media Academy Set To Become Magnet School

City School Board Scheduled To Vote On Plan Tuesday


April 09, 2013

HARTFORD When the city's Journalism and Media Academy opens in a new location in August, school administrators might also be welcoming an influx of suburban ninth-graders.

The city board of education is expected to vote Tuesday to convert the specialized high school into a Sheff magnet school for the 2013-14 year and beyond.

Under a plan that was negotiated between the state, plaintiffs in the Sheff vs. O'Neill case and Hartford school leaders, the Journalism and Media Academy would make available 180 magnet seats for incoming freshman, including 90 for suburban students.

By 2016-17, the magnet seats will expand to 12th grade.

About 200 Hartford students in grades 9 to 12 currently attend the media academy at Weaver High School, which offers courses ranging from graphic arts to radio and television production. The program is moving to 150 Tower Ave., the former Barbour School, after a $37.45 million renovation. That building is designed to hold 400 students.

City school administrators said converting the academy into a magnet school would be part of a new, one-year extension to the Sheff desegregation agreement that is still being negotiated. The state failed to meet goals under the current five-year pact that expires this year; one target called for 41 percent of Hartford's minority students to be enrolled in integrated schools. The state reached 36.7 percent.

"Hartford Public Schools must be prepared to act quickly to market and open this new magnet school and, at a minimum, deliver a compliant 9th grade," administrators wrote to the board. They also noted a potential impact on funding.

The state planned to reimburse the city about $28 million in construction costs for the Tower Avenue school renovation. City school leaders have asked the state to increase that 80 percent rate to 95 percent, the usual funding for interdistrict magnet school construction.

Kelly Donnelly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said in a statement Monday: "The agreement is subject to ongoing confidential negotiations. We look forward to discussing the specific terms of the settlement once the agreement is finalized."

On Monday evening, the state planned to open its online application process for new magnet seats available for 2013-14 a listing that already included the Hartford Journalism and Media Magnet School. The Regional School Choice Office's deadline for families to apply is April 29 and an admissions lottery is set for late May.

Hartford students already enrolled in the academy can remain at the school, administrators said.

An open house is scheduled for 5 to 8:30 p.m. April 16 at Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network on Asylum Avenue, the school's partner. Starting in 2013-14, journalism and media seniors will take classes in a new Learning Lab being constructed at the network's headquarters.

Last month, the Hartford school board approved converting the city's existing Moylan Montessori elementary program into a magnet school as part of the Sheff settlement extension, as well as creating a pre-kindergarten magnet school for 180 children ages 3 and 4.

Typically, at least 25 percent of students at a Sheff school must be white to meet integration guidelines.

The state's school choice fair for new magnet options is planned for 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Conard High School in West Hartford. For more information, visit http://www.choiceeducation.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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