Life got better, though a bit more complicated, for Annie Fisher Multiple Intelligences Magnet School parents Wednesday evening.
The school will be closed for a year for renovations and asbestos removal, so students must move.
Parents were enraged last week by the announcement of a plan to house their school in The Hartford Transitional Learning Academy on Tower Avenue — a neighborhood and a building that parents don't like — while Fisher undergoes construction. It was unclear whether all students — particularly students in the upper grades — would be permitted to return to Fisher when the building was complete.
Under a new draft plan — officials underscore the "draft" status of the arrangement — students will not be moved into the Tower Avenue school. Rather, they will have an array of choices depending on their grade level.
All students will have the choice to move with their teachers to Mark Twain Elementary School if they are in grades K-3 or, if they are in grades 4-8 they may move to the Fisher annex building near Fisher school. Anyone who chooses this option is guaranteed a place back at Annie Fisher when the building reopens the year after next, officials said.
Some parents were skeptical of this promise to return to Fisher and demanded that it be codified in a letter on district letterhead since the offer is made as part of a draft plan. James Thompson, the assistant superintendent for elementary schools, promised to get a letter out.
Students who choose other options from the menu of choices will not be guaranteed a place at Fisher when construction is complete.
Those options include allowing students in kindergarten and first grade to enroll in: a start-up for a new character education-based Breakthrough school to be housed next year at Breakthrough Magnet on Brookfield Street; a start-up Montessori school or a start-up Achievement First school — both of which will be at Twain school next year.
The Achievement First charter school — New Haven's successful Amistad Academy is an Achievement First school — would be exclusively for Hartford students. It would offer extended days, school on Saturday and summer school with a rigorous college-prep curriculum. The district may later develop a high school. The school would operate in partnership with the Hartford public schools and the Capitol Region Education Council.
Students in Grade 5 and possibly Grade 2 also would have the option to enroll in the Achievement First school.
The rest of the students in grades 2-8 who decide not to stick with Fisher may enroll in Rawson School or take advantage of preferential — though not guaranteed — placement in inter-district magnet schools operated by Hartford.
Twain school will cease to operate as its own school because enrollment numbers are low. Students enrolled at that school will have their own set of options for other schools to attend.
Students who return to Fisher will find it a different school. Really, it will be two schools, possibly even three for a while.
Fisher runs now as an inter-district magnet school with a "multiple intelligences" theme, meaning it focuses on developing different "types" of intelligence such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial and musical. But unlike a similar school on the nearby University of Hartford campus, this converted neighborhood school has failed to draw enough suburban students to qualify for state funding as a magnet school.
So the state Department of Education asked the school district to submit a plan outlining a strategy to draw more students from the suburbs. The district has yet to submit that plan, according to state education department spokesman Tom Murphy. But, he said, Hartford officials told state officials that they would like to have three magnet schools in the building when renovation is complete.
The state didn't bite.
"We're unsure that school should have three schools and three principals," Murphy said. "To have three principals in there might be excessive."
Hartford officials apparently scaled back their plans. The new plan outlined by Thompson places a Montessori school and a STEM school at the building. A STEM school focuses on science, technology, engineering and math and would prepare students for enrollment in University High School for Science & Engineering.
The theme of multiple intelligences may also continue at Fisher, though it will likely be phased out, Thompson said, because Superintendent Steven Adamowski doesn't think its curriculum is rigorous.
Students who choose to attend the Fisher annex or stay with the Fisher cluster at Twain school next year will continue with the multiple intelligences curriculum, though it will be enhanced, district spokeswoman Michaela Donnelly said.
Several parents asked why parents were not included in the decision about which themes to include at the school. Thompson said that teachers selected the STEM theme and that Adamowski selected the Montessori theme because parents throughout the district have asked for another Montessori school.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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