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East Hartford Gazette: Kindergarten with IB Theme Opening at Silva’s

Friday August 1, 2008

Kindergarten with IB Theme Opening at Silva’s
by John Karas
August 1, 2008
©East Hartford Gazette

Sheff v. O’Neill got another shot in the arm last week when Governor M. Jodi Rell announced on July 25 that $3 million is expected to be approved at the next State Bond Commission meeting August 4 as start up funding for four inter-district magnet schools.

“These magnet schools will promote diversity and improve the overall educational opportunities for Hartford students and their families, as well as students from the Greater Hartford area,” Rell said in a statement.

Among the lucky winners is East Hartford, where Capitol Region Education Council plans to use $620,000 dollars of the funds to start an International Baccalaureate early childhood magnet school this fall to serve children 3-to-5 years old, half from Hartford and the rest from East Hartford and surrounding communities.

It will be the third magnet school CREC will operate here. CREC also runs the Two Rivers Magnet Middle School for grades 6-8, and the East Hartford-Glastonbury Elementary Magnet School on May Road, an elementary school for grades K-6. But an announcement is anticipated any day that GEMS, as the elementary magnet school is known, will move to a new building in Glastonbury once a suitable site is purchased.

CREC schools employ a science-focused curriculum with staff and facilities paid by the state. The town is charged for tuition based on the number of students enrolled.

Classrooms now being built in the gardening area of the former Frank’s craft store on Silver Lane, also home of Silva’s Youth of Today, will accommodate the “IB Primary Years Programme.” The new school will aim for what the organization terms “a total growth of the developing child” that will cater to “the social, physical, emotional and cultural needs of the students.”

International Baccalaureate schools are a worldwide network of educational organizations that follow the same philosophy of high academic standards, combined with promoting the traits of being a good world citizen. Another town school, Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy, is also based on the same model. But CIBA is unconnected with the new IB primary years effort.

According to the IB website, the Primary Years curriculum for students 3 to 12 aims in helping kids understand that they need to share the planet, learn how the world works, and become aware of where they are in place and time while at the same time giving them an opportunity to explore more mundane subjects like science and language.

It is unclear how CREC plans to implement these targets in the new school, and what will its difference be from a traditional kindergarten.

Gov. Rell, in issuing the announcement of the anticipated grant funding from her office, mentioned an emphasis on developing “active, compassionate, and lifelong learners, with the ability to understand and work with others.” The governor added the new school will house about 150 students, half from Hartford and the rest from other communities.

However, despite the governor’s announcement, and a series of newspaper advertisements for the program, repeated calls from The Gazette to CREC offices unreturned. So the specifics of CREC’s new “Primary Years” program in East Hartford are still unknown.

What is clear, however, is that the governor’s pledge of $620,000 for the East Hartford school will fall far short of what will be needed to construct a brand new facility for a full-fledged school “at the intersection of I-84 and Route 2” disclosed as the new school’s location. As a result, and with the limited funding it will soon have, CREC decided to start the school as a pre-k program at temporary quarters, then expand it to a full elementary when the rest of the funds materialize. And so Silva’s Youth of Today child care facility on Silver Lane is now making an addition it will lease to house CREC IB kindergarteners when school starts August 27.

Manuel Silva, director of Silva’s Childcare, confirmed this week that the new program will be housed in 7 classrooms in the building, three of which are now being constructed as an addition to the existing facility while another two will utilize a converted space at the other side of the building.

As things stand now, the IB program will be housed in 7,616 square feet of space that require $380,000 to be completed. A further $240,000 will go towards furniture, fixtures and equipment.

A visit at the site on Tuesday showed that some progress has already been made. The old greenhouse of the facility has been torn down, and the new expansion is fast taking shape.

Silva pointed out that the two programs will be separate. He stressed that he is very happy with the prospect of sharing the company’s facility with the new school.

“The fact that CREC is coming to East Hartford with a magnet-type pre-k school will help the town, and I think it’s going to help us too,” he said. “It will help our pre-k status. It will help our staff. And it’s going to help our curriculum, because we will be working with them also.”

Local and suburban students will benefit from the contact with Hartford students, he notes. “It will be a great opportunity for the children,” he said. “They will meet people form different backgrounds and cultures, and they will learn how to be able to come together. It will be great experience for them.”

Link: http://www.zwire.com/cancel/cancellation.asp?brd=1642