This is an exciting and historic time for New London Public Schools. Less than a year ago, we unveiled a vision for an all magnet school district, the first of its kind in Connecticut and perhaps the country. Now, midway through the 2015-2016 school year, real progress is being made and that vision is well on its way to becoming a reality. Hundreds of students from 20 surrounding communities are enrolled in the District's magnet schools, a number that will grow as New London Public Schools expand into a truly regional school district.
This progress is the result of hard work by our entire staff, our community partners and our parents. Without them, there is no vision. Without them, there would be no success or hope for the future.
New London Public Schools have charted our course in an extensive Strategic Plan, and in the spirit of transparency, we want share with you how far we have come in such a short period of time.
One of the major keys to our plan is the focus on Community Partnerships with parents, local businesses, area colleges, health and human service organizations, places of worship and other essential service providers. These partnerships play a key role because there is so much more to learning than just what happens within our school walls during our regular school day. Expanded internship programs, job opportunities, before and after school enrichment programs, mentoring and tutoring opportunities will make an even greater difference in the lives of our students.
We have conducted an extensive partnership survey and are now laying the groundwork for expanded and new opportunities and services, the results of which will be announced in the weeks ahead. A particularly exciting aspect of our partnership program is our Memoranda of Understanding with local institutions of higher learning. These agreements will enable our graduating students to continue their education in a meaningful way.
Our plan to provide schools of excellence serving the entire New London region also calls for the construction of state of the art facilities. We have already spent $75 million on new construction at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School, Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School and C.B Jennings Elementary School. In 2014, New London voters approved an additional $150 million for construction of two new high school campuses; the current New London High School will be renovated and will serve as New London High School North Campus, which will open in 2020. Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School will transition to New London High School South Campus and is expected to be ready for students in 2023. Each of these campuses will serve grades 6 through 12. Finally, we are continuing to take steps to ensure that all our high school students will have access to a state-of-the-art Athletic Complex when our new high school campuses are completed. It may seem like a long time from now, but our patience and long-term commitment is critical to achieving our goals.
We are also continuing the renovation of Harbor School, home to our Pre-K programs.
One of the unique pillars in the District's long-term vision is what we call our "Birth to Five" initiative. This involves tracking each birth in New London and setting up a pre-enrollment system, which will ensure that every child age 3 to 4 has access to quality Pre-K. A "Birth to Five" Task Force is working with Community Health Center and Child and Family Agencies to design these programs and to engage and assist parents of newborns and toddlers in our community. One of our earliest results of this work is the expansion of Pre-K, which will have room for 60 more students beginning in 2017.
The essence of the New London Public Schools all-magnet system is the four "Pathway" approach, based on student interest, personalized learning and college credit opportunities outside the classroom. Our Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Middle School opened this year at Bennie Dover Jackson; and Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut is celebrating 10 years of excellence. Our staff is working to ensure a seamless link for STEM students between grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.
Published in The New London Times Jan. 21, 2016