College-level courses, personal laptops and a new building on the banks of the Connecticut River — these are among the educational offerings promised at a new magnet high school set to open at the Goodwin College campus next month.
The school, called the Connecticut River Academy, will accept its first class of 160 freshmen and sophomores Aug. 30. The school's focus will be environmental studies, with heavy emphasis on the history and ecology of the river, along with opportunities for high school students to take Goodwin classes and access the college's lab equipment and other resources.
Students will also have access to the college's library, but Alan Kramer, Goodwin's dean of magnet schools, said they probably won't be spending much time there.
The original curriculum, designed in part by the Connecticut Center for Advancement of Technology, will be "project-based," meaning students will spend much of the day working outside, testing, canoeing and studying the Connecticut River. And most of the reading and research will be done on computers.
"The goal is to break through the wall that confines a student to a textbook," Kramer said.
The school is part of a larger expansion at the college, which is undergoing major redevelopment and adding three new magnet schools, set to open over the next few years. In addition to the Connecticut River Academy, Goodwin will open an early-childhood school as a laboratory for its early childhood education program. It will also open a building for the magnet school Pathways to Technology, which has been in a temporary facility since 2004. Once fully enrolled, Goodwin will have 1,100 students at its magnet programs on campus.
Todd Andrews, Goodwin's vice president for college relations and advancement, said the schools were an integral part of the evolution of the college. "It makes all the sense in the world to us to share our resources for the purposes of education at all levels," he wrote in an e-mail.
The Connecticut River Academy, which will eventually accommodate 480 students from different towns, is inching toward completion. After a slow start to the recruiting season, the academy now has 200 students on the waiting list. It also hired a new principal earlier this week — Linda Dadona, formerly a principal in East Haddam. This year it will be housed in a temporary building, Kramer said, with its renovated, permanent building slated to open in two years.
As part of a push to introduce high school students to college, they can start taking modified college-level courses their junior year, Kramer said. In their senior year, students will be able to sit in on Goodwin College courses. The result, he said, is that some students will graduate with as much as a year's worth of college credits — accepted at most universities in the state.
The new school is the latest addition to East Hartford's already robust lineup of magnet schools. The abundance of magnets has irked some in the public school system, who complain that the district loses promising students and gets stuck with high tuition bills.
More educational opportunities "is a positive overall for the entire town," said Mary Alice Dwyer Hughes, chairwoman of the board of education. But she also said that the board has lobbied for the academy to limit the number of East Hartford students it takes in.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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