Parents offered a wide range of school options at fair in Groton

Technology teacher Cara Smith, center, shows Ben Barker, 4, left, of Groton how to control the Dot and Dash robots with an iPad while Theo Barker, 2, take a closer look at one of the robots at the Winthrop STEM Magnet Elementary School booth at the School Options Fair held at the  SUBASE Youth Center in Groton.  Ben and Theo were attending the fair with their parents, Jason and Catarina Barker.(Dana Jensen/The Day)
Technology teacher Cara Smith, center, shows Ben Barker, 4, left, of Groton how to control the Dot and Dash robots with an iPad while Theo Barker, 2, take a closer look at one of the robots at the Winthrop STEM Magnet Elementary School booth at the School Options Fair held at the SUBASE Youth Center in Groton. Ben and Theo were attending the fair with their parents, Jason and Catarina Barker.(Dana Jensen/The Day)

Groton — Immanuel Memarian, 4, played with a robot in the Subase Youth Center gymnasium while his mother collected information about Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School in New London.

“He’s hands on, so we’re trying to look at arts magnet and STEM schools,” Zeva Memarian explained during the School Options Fair on Saturday at the youth center. About 50 families attended the event, which brought together representatives from Groton, New London, the regional education LEARN, and area private schools like Sacred Heart.

“There are a lot of magnet schools in the area that we weren’t even aware of,” said Emine Cabassa, who attended the fair with her husband and their two children, ages 2 and six months. She was looking for the best fit for her son, who likes to build things and stay busy, she said.

Saturday’s event attracted mostly parents with younger children, but middle schools were also represented.

Kathy Wilson serves as “middle years” program coordinator for the International Baccalaureate program in Groton Public Schools. The district submitted its application to the International Baccalaureate on Friday and is training staff in the program, which teaches critical thinking by building students' academic, social, problem-solving and other skills.

The program has gained recognition for its ability to incorporate learners with different strengths and styles, and it will become an overarching theme in grades 6 through 10 in Groton next fall.

“This puts all learners on the playing field,” said Susan Austin, assistant superintendent.

Each of the district's two middle schools also have magnet themes, with arts and humanities at Carl C. Cutler Middle School, and science, math, engineering and technology at West Side Middle School.

Across the gymnasium, Angela Rasmussen, operations manager of Winthrop STEM in New London, spoke to parents. Among its programs, the school offers an extended day enrichment program as part of its academics, creating a school day that begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 3:50 p.m.

Zeva Memarian said she was narrowing down her choices. Academic performance and school diversity matter to her, she said. Zeva Memarian is black and Puerto Rican, her husband is Persian and another relative is white, she said.

“We have a mini-United Nations in my family, and I’d like to keep it that way,” she said.

She'd like her son to attend a school with a racially and culturally diverse student population, she said.

Phylicia Adams brought her daughter, 7, to the school choices fair.

“This is my last stop,” she said, after speaking to a representative from Pine Point School in Stonington.

She and her husband, who is in the U.S. Coast Guard, moved to Groton about seven months ago from Jacksonville, Fla.

Their daughter is a strong academic performer, and Adams wants more than the basics.

“I’m looking for a school that’s going to provide something extra to develop her interests,” she said, “to introduce her to a broad range of interests and maybe something will stick. And she’ll find something she’s really passionate about.”

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