Groton sees more students attending magnet schools elsewhere

Groton - The number of Groton students attending magnet schools outside the district has risen from 322 last year to a little more than 400 this year, and tuition for those students will cost an estimated $2.4 million, Superintendent Michael Graner told the Board of Education Monday.

The figures are estimates since bills are still coming in, he said. When a student leaves for a magnet program, the district must pay tuition for the program.

Graner, who gave the update to the board at a meeting held at Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School, said the district could see as many as 9 percent of students attending programs elsewhere. The largest increase occurred at the elementary level, Graner said.

He said he would look into what is drawing families to go elsewhere, adding that it could be "everything from transportation to child care to programming."

"We want to strike a balance between school choice, which I think is ultimately good for the region, and making sure Groton has a program that is well supported by the community," Graner said. He is expected to report back to the board when he has final tuition numbers.

Connecticut created magnet schools that draw from multiple districts to improve student achievement and reduce the degree to which children are isolated based on race, ethnicity or economics. The number has grown in recent years.

LEARN, a regional educational group, runs four interdistrict magnet schools in southeastern Connecticut, including two that opened in the last three years. The Marine Science magnet school charges a tuition of about $5,500, and Groton pays about $3,000 for each student who attends an elementary magnet school, Graner said.

Rita Volkmann, chairwoman of the Groton school board who also serves on the board of directors for LEARN, said she believes LEARN will be increasing tuition by 3 percent.

New London Public Schools, which runs three interdistrict magnet schools, plans to convert into a system where every school has a magnet program.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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