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Courant: Windsor School Board Queries Magnet Facility Task Force

Wednesday May 21, 2008

Windsor School Board Queries Magnet Facility Task Force
by Steven Goode
Courant Staff Writer
May 21, 2008
©The Hartford Courant

The board of education Tuesday got some answers and raised more questions about the town’s exploration of building a state-funded early pre-kindergarten and kindergarten magnet school.

Betsy Kenneson, chairwoman of a 20-member task force formed in February to study the possibility, told the school board that a site for a school for up to 600 students was being studied on Clover Street, just to the south of the Clover Street Elementary School.

Whether that site would turn out to be acceptable, Kenneson said, is still up in the air, as are the cost and the size of the building.

The state, however, would provide reimbursement of 95 percent of construction costs for the school, which Windsor would share with several other towns yet to be named.

Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser said Tuesday that Hartford would be among the participating communities, but that Bloomfield, which recently broke ground on construction of a similar, state-funded project, would not be a partner.

Kenneson, a former Windsor Board of Education president, said that Windsor would be able to rely on Bloomfield’s experiences, as well as Waterford’s, which has an early learning magnet program that has been operating for several years, if it decides to move forward with the project.

But Kenneson said there are concerns among members of the task force about relying on the state for funding the operation of the school, what would happen if that funding dried up and what, if any, strings would be attached in order for Windsor to receive funds.

Feser said that it was her understanding that the state had committed to providing $8,000 tuition for each student from surrounding towns and $3,000 for local children, but board members asked Kenneson to determine what safeguards would be in place to make sure the state continued to fund the school, whether or not the state had discontinued funding any schools and the impact on Windsor if that were to happen.

“We’re exploring all possibilities and that is a significant one,” Kenneson told the school board.

At a meeting in February Feser told the board that the magnet school would allow the town to be able to afford to offer all-day kindergarten to Windsor students. Presently the school district only offers a limited half-day program. The school, which would derive at least 25 percent of its student body from outside Windsor, would also support the goals of the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation case, she said.

But on Tuesday Feser told the board that the town’s participation in the project was still in question.

“There is a healthy skepticism on the part of the task force,” she said.

Kenneson said she hoped to be able to provide the board with more definitive answers when the task force meets again, possibly in June.

Contact Steven Goode at sgoode@courant.com.