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City in line for $3 million state grant for high school renovations

New London — On the same night that the city's mayor proposed making New London High a sports medicine and scholar-athlete magnet school, the special master assigned to the school district announced a $3 million request with the state Bond Commission to renovate the school.

Special master Steven Adamowski told the Board of Education Thursday that the Bond Commission is scheduled today to allocate the $3 million, which would cover the entire cost of the design phase of renovating the high school as new.

He said 5 percent of a building project's costs generally comprise an architectural study and plans.

There are no current plans to renovate the high school, but Adamowski said the school is in "dire need for renovation and improvement." The funds were requested by the state education commissioner, he said.

"You're also aware that there are a number of complaints that have been filed over the years to the Office of Civil Rights that are pending against the district relative to the school being inaccessible to the handicapped," Adamowski told the school board.

In Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's school reform plan, an allocation was made for $16 million for facility improvements for low-performing schools, Adamowski said.

"The commissioner and I felt that it was in the spirit of that allocation to try to do something that would move (the) New London High School project forward," he said.

"It needs to be a facility that the community can be proud of. Clean, safe, free of environmental hazards and accessible to all people, and one that can represent and promote a curriculum program in which students can become college-ready and have the relevance of a theme that can help them in terms of college admissions and beyond in their career," he said.

Also Thursday, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio proposed that New London High School become a sports medicine and scholar-athlete academy as part of a larger proposal to make New London the state's first and only magnet school district.

An arts academy, possibly in Waterford, could become the city's third magnet high school, Adamowski said at the meeting. Discussions involving an arts school between New London and Waterford officials are ongoing, he said.

"One of my greatest issues in life is to support public education," Finizio said. "I do support the concept of moving to an all-magnet school district because it will improve student achievement and gain increases in state funding. We need at least three or more academies within the city to move forward as a district."

Meanwhile, the New London sports medicine academy would focus on nutrition and occupational therapy, among other things, and would "open up the possibility of students going into health care professions which are the fastest-growing professions in the Northeast," Finizio said.

Drawing inspiration from the "high achievements" at Hartford's Sports and Medical Science Academy, Finizio said, a sports medicine academy would be in "keeping with the interest among the student population that is currently at New London High School."

"Through the addition of a scholar-athlete and Sports Medicine Magnet School in New London, we will be able to educate our children at a higher level, continue the longstanding tradition of Whaler sports, and move our district from the bottom to the top," he wrote in a memo to the school board Thursday.

New London currently has two magnet schools, both with a science, technology, engineering and math emphasis: the Science and Technology Magnet High School and Winthrop Magnet Elementary School.

The new Nathan Hale School is scheduled to open next year as a magnet school for performing and visual arts. Jennings Elementary School has a dual-language and foreign-language theme but is not a designated magnet school.

A 2006 law established the concept of an all-magnet school system in New London. Under the plan, every public school in the city — elementary, middle and high schools — would be a specialized magnet school.

An all-magnet school designation would provide a higher level of state reimbursement — an additional $3,000 per student if the district hits required enrollment quotas. That reimbursement would total about $9 million.

Tours of the sports medical school in Hartford will be scheduled with school and city officials and community members. Parents and students can expect informational forums on the proposal.


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