Dual Language school says East Hartford location not an option

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Waterford — LEARN announced on Monday it has decided not to continue to operate a school for the two remaining classes of students at its Dual Language & Arts Magnet Middle School.

The decision comes less than two weeks after LEARN announced it would be closing the school at 51 Daniels Ave. It had pitched the idea of busing the roughly 100 remaining students in sixth and seventh grades to the East Hartford campus of Goodwin College to continue classes next year. LEARN operates two magnet schools at the location.

The choice was not well received, and many parents expressed discomfort bringing their students to a transportation hub and sending them on an hourlong bus ride. LEARN, which polled staff and students about the move, concluded the idea was not feasible.

“Dual Language has been an amazing community for my children. I’m heartbroken by the closing,” said Immacula Perkins of Norwich.

Perkins has two children at the school, including one seventh grader whose only option at the moment will be to enroll in a middle school in her hometown. Perkins said that like other parents, she had cherished the atmosphere at the Dual Language school, its smaller class sizes and more individualized attention. She was also close in the event of an emergency.

“It was a pleasure being here, but everybody is upset. It’s emotionally damaging right now, telling kids in the middle of a school year we’re closing the school,” Perkins said.

She said she would continue to seek out other options.

In deciding to close the school, LEARN cited an inability to meet its student enrollment goals and a lack of funding for renovations to the former Southwest Elementary School. The school, which operates in space being leased by the town of Waterford, was always intended to be a temporary home after a move from New London in 2010. LEARN is a regional educational service center based in Old Lyme.

LEARN Executive Director Kate Ericson said LEARN, after eight years of looking, was unable to come up with an alternative site.

“This is a sad outcome and we certainly understand the difficult choice that families had to make,” Ericson said in a statement. “During the final months of the school’s operation, we will focus on supporting families as they prepare to transition to new placements.”

Ericson called Dual Language "a small but mighty school."

“It is known for supporting every student in achieving their personal best by building connections, providing challenging experiences, and offering individualized choices,” Ericson said in a statement. “The school will continue to do just that until its last day in June. We thank everyone who has been a part of the school’s journey and who continue to give their all to the school today.”

Ericson has previously said LEARN would attempt to support the 14 staff members who are now out of a job, with openings in other programs at other schools. Of the 148 students now attending Dual Language, 75 come from New London and 33 from Norwich. Ericson said New London is opening its lottery for students for at least two of its three magnet schools.

School families seeking help in returning to their home district or other local schools of choice can reach out to LEARN’s Communications Team at communications@learn.k12.ct.us.

g.smith@theday.com

 

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