New London’s Harbor School to join the magnet school mix
The Day. Greg Smith. December 28, 2018.

Preparations are underway to create a new magnet elementary school in New London that combines two well-established themes in the school district.

Harbor Elementary School on Montauk Avenue will open in the fall as a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) intradistrict magnet school, a mashup of the popular STEM and arts programs that have lured out-of-district students to the Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet and Nathan Hale Arts Magnet schools.

The school will enroll New London students only for the foreseeable future, as the school district continues to fine-tune its all-magnet plan and the $150 million secondary school construction project.

Harbor was slated to be a feeder school for a middle school leadership-themed program, one of four magnet pathways planned by the district. State education officials earlier this year directed the district to stick with three themes. The leadership program is being dropped next year in favor of a planned International Baccalaureate program, which will join STEM and arts as the third themed magnet program.

School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie, at a recent meeting with the editorial board of The Day, said the news of the new program was being shared with parents in advance of the school lottery, where families list their top picks among the four elementary schools.

“That will be a great way to offer kids a thematic experience that will feed into any of the three pathways,” Ritchie said.

Kate H. McCoy, the district’s executive director for strategic planning, government and media relations, said the staff at Harbor is training and preparing for a STEAM program that will cover the entire school, kindergarten through fifth grade. Harbor fifth-graders will be guaranteed seats in the sixth grade International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme for the 2019-20 school year. The program is for students aged 11-16.

After a one-year hiatus, plans also are underway to bring back out-of-district students to C.B. Jennings Dual Language and International Elementary Magnet School. Jennings is in the International Baccalaureate candidacy phase and expected to send its students into secondary school programs taking the place of the leadership program. The district will call it an international education program until it is approved as an International Baccalaureate school.

In their high school years, students will be able seek a diploma with an International Baccalaureate seal, internationally recognized for its high educational standards, rigor and assessment process. McCoy said she expects the district to separately offer students the ability to choose majors and minors in STEM and arts.

New London joins districts in Groton and Norwich in offering a STEAM magnet program. Norwich public schools launched a STEAM magnet program at Kelly Middle School in the fall, along with a global studies magnet theme at Teachers Memorial Middle School. Groton launched a STEAM program at the Catherine Kolnaski Elementary School.

While more school districts are now offering magnet themes, McCoy said New London is unique in that it continues to expand its interdistrict magnet programs. The district plans to become the state’s first all-magnet school district, opening all of its schools to students from across the state.

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