Hartford once boasted close to a dozen Catholic schools. But those schools have been closing one by one since the 1970’s and now only two are left, St. Augustine’s on Clifford Street and SS. Cyril and Methodius on Groton Street.
That trend may soon be reversed, however, as the Archdiocese of Hartford is currently working with a group of community leaders to create the city’s first new Catholic school in decades.
Dale Hoyt, Superintendent of Schools for the Hartford Archdiocese, said the new school is, “still definitely in the discussion phase right now...but there certainly seems to be an interest in it.”
The new school would be similar to St. Martin de Porres Academy (SMPA) in New Haven, which has been operating for over two years and is almost at full enrollment.
SMPA follows the “Nativity Miguel Network of Schools” model which was launched by the Jesuit Order.
There are currently 64 Nativity Schools in the United States with over 4,200 students and graduates. The schools are designed to serve low-income students from low-performing public schools in middle grades. Nativity Schools stress small classes, longer school days and sustained parental involvement, among other things. Students typically are charged only a small fee for activities (at SMPA, this fee is only about $20 per month).
Hoyt said the Archdiocese is hoping to place the new school in Hartford’s North End because, “that’s where the need seems to be the greatest.” However other sections of the city are also being considered. Supporters of the school are exploring the possibility of using one of the Archdiocese’s old school buildings that is currently not in use.
Hoyt also said that he and the school’s supporters are discussing whether the Hartford School should follow SMPA in having longer instructional days and an 11-month school calendar. Backers of the school are also working on what type of meal plan would best serve the needs of the community. SMPA provides its students with three meals a day.
Supporters of the school will also have to decide whether to make the school co-ed, all boys or all girls, said Hoyt, based on the needs of the community. Nativity Schools are open to children of all religions and ethnic groups. The primary entrance requirement is not exceeding a maximum household income level.
The Hartford Nativity School would be run by a board of trustees with the Archdiocese providing service and support in various ways, said Hoyt. For example, the New Haven Archdiocese leases out one of its old school buildings to SMPA for a nominal fee.
Although the Nativity School concept was created by the Jesuits, the schools themselves invite different religious orders within the Catholic Church to operate them, such as the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Franciscan Sisters and the Christian Brothers. Many lay teachers also teach at the schools.
Despite the fact that the Hartford Nativity School is still in its very early planning stages, Hoyt said there is a small possibility that the school could open as early as this September but he added that it is more likely to begin operating in the Fall of 2009.