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Collaboration Brings New School To Asylum Hill

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 hallways.

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 agency.

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 organizations.

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. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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