Two New Schools In Hartford, Bridgeport To Profit From Funds
June 16, 2006
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $3.6 million grant to help Connecticut support recently opened experimental charter schools and start several new ones over the next three years.
This year, the grant will support the recently opened Stamford Academy in Stamford and the Elm City College Preparatory school in New Haven, along with two new charters scheduled to open in the fall in Hartford and Bridgeport.
"This is fantastic for us," said Patricia Sweet, an official with Achievement First, a charter school management organization that oversees several schools, including Elm City College Preparatory, which opened in 2004.
Charters such as Elm City rely on a state grant for some support but often must raise additional money, including private donations, to maintain operations. The federal grant will help Elm City, which includes an elementary and middle school, as it expands from its current enrollment of about 250 to about 370 students in the fall, Sweet said.
Connecticut is one of nine states to receive federal grants for expanding charter schools. Charters are part of a national reform movement designed to encourage innovation by allowing educators, community leaders and other entrepreneurs to operate publicly supported schools without many of the regulations governing most traditional public schools.
Connecticut now supports 14 small experimental public schools that operate under a 10-year-old state charter law.
The new grant was welcome news for the state, which had received federal charter school money for several years but did not get a grant for the current school year, said Robert Kelly, a state Department of Education official who oversees charter schools.
Start-up costs are often one of the biggest obstacles for new charter schools. The federal grant, Kelly said, is designed "to help them get off the ground."
Part of the grant will be used to help open Park City Prep, a math- and science-oriented charter in Bridgeport, and the Cross-Cultural Academy of Arts and Technology in Hartford this fall.
"Every penny will help us," said Augustine Cofrancesco, one of the founders of the Cross-Cultural Academy, which is expected to open at a site near Hamilton Street and Bartholomew Avenue while officials look for a permanent home.
"We'd like to put the money toward refurbishing a large building in Hartford," something big enough to accommodate a theater, art center and dance studios, he said.
Kelly said he hopes to see two other proposed charter schools open in 2007. They are the Connecticut Academy of Mathematics and Science in Hartford for grades 6 through 12, and the Academy of Destiny Charter School in Bloomfield, a school promoting high achievement and character education for children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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