Magnetic plan

Preliminary plans released last week brought into better focus the plan to create an all-magnet school district in New London. Those plans were a reminder of what an ambitious undertaking the city and state face in making this a reality.

Viewed more optimistically, the concept outlined provided an exciting glimpse of the potential to transform New London's struggling system into an innovative school district attracting students from adjoining suburbs and improving the quality of education for all.

Students and their parents would have four educational pathway choices from kindergarten through 12th grade according to the concept: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math); Visual and Performing Arts; Dual Language, and Leadership and Public Service.

STEM students would move from Winthrop Elementary, to a STEM Middle School to be built on the current high school campus, and finally to the Science and Technology High School of Southeastern Connecticut, which is on the high school campus.

Students in the Visual and Performing Arts Pathway would move from Nathan Hale Elementary, to the ISAAC charter school in 6th through 8th grades, then to a high school program at the Garde Performing Arts Center.

The Dual Language Pathway would begin at C.B. Jennings Elementary School, then continue at a renovated Bennie Dover Jackson, still serving as a middle school but with space for high school language students as well.

The broadly defined public service pathway would run from grades 6-12, with its middle school and high school programs housed in a renovated New London High School. Faced with the potential of losing the high school's accreditation, city officials must announce soon how they plan to renovate or replace the school, which is in poor condition and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Students would not be locked into a pathway, moving as interests changed, and all would receive a core curriculum.

The rough estimate for construction is $150 million, at least two-thirds of that covered by the state and potentially more.

That is a lot of new construction, renovation and innovation. The close partnership depicted between the New London Public School system and the ISAAC charter school would be unprecedented in the state. Utilizing the Garde would be innovative.

Much work, planning, and fine tuning remain, but this is a concept the community should rally behind.

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