NFA board approves transitional program

Norwich — Thames River Academy will close officially June 30, but high school students in a transitional program will remain at the Bishop School on East Main Street through December in a new program to be run by Norwich Free Academy.

The NFA Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to launch a transitional program starting Aug. 29 and authorized a $2.55 million renovation of the school-owned office building at 80 Sachem St. to house it.

The renovations won't be done in time for the start of the school year, so the program is expected to move to Sachem Street after the December vacation, NFA Chief Financial Officer Rich Rand said.

The transitional program initially will serve 55 to 60 Norwich students, replacing Thames River Academy, but is expected to expand to a total of 80 to 100 students, including those from other NFA partner towns and possibly tuition students from non-NFA towns, as early as the 2013-14 school year.

The Norwich Board of Education voted Tuesday to close the troubled Thames River Academy and join the new NFA program, anticipating the NFA board's quick action Wednesday. Norwich will pay $25,000 per student in tuition for the new program, about the same cost as running TRA with curriculum and staffing improvements required by the state.

NFA Head of School David Klein said he already has advertised internally and externally for teachers and the principal's position and expects to hire staff during the summer.

NFA and Norwich public school officials also must work on criteria for identifying students for the program. Some will be current TRA students, while others might be NFA students who are struggling and in need of a more individualized program. Some also will be current eighth-graders at either Kelly or Teachers' Memorial middle schools in Norwich.

NFA Board of Trustees Chairman David Whitehead praised both the NFA administration and Norwich public school officials for their cooperation. NFA officials had planned to start the larger transition program in the 2013-14 school year but proposed starting early in response to the extensive problems identified at TRA through a state-funded program audit.

"This was a good collaborative effort," Whitehead said. "I commend everyone."


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