Magnet school proposals in region hope to attract millions in funding

The southeastern Connecticut education agency will seek $11.8 million in federal grants for seven new or significantly expanded magnet schools, including two Norwich schools wishing to convert to new magnet schools and expansions for existing programs in New London and Waterford.

LEARN submitted the combined grant application Friday to the U.S. Department of Education under the name Partners for Equity & Achievement in eastern Connecticut's Education or (PEACE). The grant application includes $11.3 million for the magnet school proposals and another $500,000 for equipment, said Doreen Marvin, development director for LEARN.

LEARN operates only one of the seven schools included in the grant, the Dual Language and Arts Magnet Middle School in Waterford. On the other six applications, the regional agency would serve as the fiscal agent, Marvin said.

In southeastern Connecticut, two Norwich elementary schools would be the only new magnet schools in the combined grant. The Norwich Board of Education on Feb. 12 approved a request by staff and parents at the John M. Moriarty School to seek status as a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, magnet school. Wequonnoc School in Taftville received approval to start planning to convert into an arts and technology magnet school.

The 457-student Moriarty School is seeking just under $1.5 million over three years for its plan to integrate environmental science and health education into the everyday curriculum at the kindergarten through fifth-grade school. Planners at the school hope to make the curriculum conversion at the start of the next school year and would open 25 percent of incoming kindergarten spots to Norwich students from outside the Moriarty district.

Principal Rebecca Pellerin told the Board of Education the school would start as an intradistrict magnet school and later could become an interdistrict school, opening spots to students from outside Norwich. No current Moriarty students would be forced out of the school.

Wequonnoc School in Taftville is at least a year behind Moriarty in the planning process to convert into an arts and technology magnet school for grades kindergarten through five. Wequonnoc, which currently has 281 students, is seeking a $100,000 planning grant for the first year, followed by $1 million over the next two years to implement the program.

Marvin said LEARN hopes to hear by July whether the region will receive the grants, leaving schools little time to prepare for the new school year at the end of August.

Norwich Superintendent Abby Dolliver said Wequonnoc would have an easier time with the short time period. Moriarty staff and parents have been working on their plan for the past year, she said, and should be able to implement at least part of the program by late August if the grant is approved.

"It may require quick work to implement the plan," Dolliver said. "Maybe they can't do everything at once. It's a fast pace. We can do it. We will do it."

If Norwich does not receive the federal grants, Dolliver said school officials still would work to implement curriculum changes to improve the schools.

Other grant applications in the region call for expanding existing magnet schools.

The Science & Technology Magnet High School, which is part of New London High School, plans a significant revision of its curriculum through a biomedical engineering program. The school also hopes to increase enrollment by 100 students. The school applied for $1.5 million over three years for both plans.

With its grant application of just under $1.5 million for three years, the Dual Language and Arts Middle Magnet School in Waterford hopes to add technology arts to the curriculum to double in size from 100 students to 200 students, Marvin said.

Two other new magnet school proposals are included in the grant. The Charles Barrow elementary School in Windham is seeking just under $1.5 million for three years to convert into a STEM kindergarten through eighth-grade magnet school.

Goodwin College in East Hartford hopes to use a $1.4 million grant over three years to start an early childhood magnet school for prekindergarten through third grade, based on the Italian Reggio Emilia magnet school model. The program takes advantage of children's individual interests and calls for extensive parental involvement.

Quinebaug Middle College for 10th- through 12th-graders at the Quinebaug Community College in Danielson would use its request for just under $1.5 million over three years to add an engineering and manufacturing component and to add another 100 students to the school.

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