February 17, 2006
By FRANCES GRANDY TAYLOR, Courant Staff Writer
On the lower level of Asylum Hill Congregational
Church a new school is taking shape. The School for Young Children
on Asylum Hill initially will serve children 6 weeks to 5 years
old and is expected to attract both city and suburban families.
"This church has a mission of
outreach to the Asylum Hill community," said Kathleen Graham,
the church's administrator, adding that the church historically
provided a safe haven for children. Families who live or work in
the Asylum Hill area or in nearby suburbs are eligible.
The preschool, scheduled to open in
September, is the first phase of a school project that by 2008 will
grow to include children up to fourth grade.
As part of an overall $4 million renovation
and expansion of the church, completed in 2004, the lower level
underwent a quarter-million-dollar renovation to create the preschool.
Bright carpeted classrooms stand ready for new toddler-size furniture
and crayon drawings. Quilts handmade by church members hang in the
The school's language- and vocabulary-oriented
curriculum and learning environment will be modeled after the School
for Young Children at St. Joseph College in West Hartford. A study
by the college in 2002 found that low-income children who attend
preschool with more affluent children learn vocabulary and language
skills six times faster than if they are schooled exclusively with
other low-income children.
The Asylum Hill school is a collaboration
of the church, the college and the Capitol Region Education Council.
It is believed to be the only project in the state jointly operated
by a Protestant church, a Catholic college and a nonprofit public
The mix of city and suburban youngsters
can have a positive impact on the learning and language proficiency
of all the children, said Beth Bye, former director of the School
for Young Children at St. Joseph College, who now works for CREC.
"Our findings show huge language
gains for students in an economic mixed environment, very large
compared to students in economically segregated types of preschool,"
said Bye, who added that upper-income children as well as lower-income
appear to benefit.
The new school also will provide a
laboratory teaching experience for students in St. Joseph's early
childhood education degree programs.
The collaboration is "a first
of its kind" with partners "bringing their own set of
expertise to form something bigger and better than any one of them
could have done on their own," said Pat Barlow, a church volunteer.
She said the school will "really make a difference" in
the Asylum Hill neighborhood and has the support of local community
The program, which will enroll up to
44 children, is accepting applications for September and will offer
scholarships to eligible families. Tuition is $215 a week for all-day
preschool; more for infant care. For information, call Asylum Hill
Congregational Church at 860-244-3111.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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