Public Schools awarded STEM grant

When the first-grade students seated in the lobby of New Haven’s Strong School on Monday morning enter the workforce, they will have been trained to compete in a 21st-century economy.

That is the intent of a new grant unveiled on Monday that will pump $11 million over four years into transforming four New Haven public schools into magnets schools geared toward science, technology, engineering and math training. The grant — which will begin with a $3.7 million investment in the first year — will fund curricular advancements, teacher training and co-curricular programming designed to boost academic achievement and to attract students from across the region

The four schools to receive the funds are Celentano Biotech, Health and Medical Magnet School; Quinnipiac Real World Math STEM School; New Haven Montessori Magnet School; and Strong Elementary School, which will be renamed the 21st Century Communications Magnet and Lab School.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and NHPS Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 joined educators and students for a press conference in the lobby of the Strong School to drum up support for the newest project in New Haven’s ongoing school change initiative.

“[Magnet schools] become a meaningful part of New Haven school change — particularly in this case [they will be] developing skills and talents that will serve kids well as they move to high school and then on to college,” DeStefano said. “This is a good day for these four schools, it’s a good day for New Haven, and for our aspirations and our goals for young people.”

DeStefano said increasing the number of magnet-style schools in the city increases parent choice. Choice and “diversity,” he said, are two of the central pillars of the magnet school philosophy. By drawing in students from the suburbs, he added, magnet schools expose students to children “from all over the region.”

New Haven is not the sole benefactor of the grant. The Elm City is one of 27 school districts to win funds from the federal Magnet School Assistance Program, a U.S. Department of Education program that awarded $89.8 million nationwide last week to further public magnet schools.

Calling the grant a “major investment in our schools and in our children,” Harries said the funds will further the central values of the New Haven Public Schools — choice, diversity and equity — while also ensuring a focus on STEM education.

“We all understand that our future, which is wrapped up in these students, is wrapped up in science, technology, engineering and math,” he said. “That’s the way of the future. That’s where jobs are being created. Students need to have literacy, and they need to have scientific and mathematic literacy as well.”

Harries said the new magnet schools will complement an existing array of neighborhood school options and admit students through the open choice program, which accepts students by lottery from all over the city and suburbs.

The four schools will incorporate project-based learning that requires the use of STEM skills to “solve real-world problems,” according to a NHPS press release. The Strong School will benefit from a new partnership with Southern Connecticut State University, Harries said, which will give students access to the university’s technology resources and language-learning tools.

“Deep integrated planning” between the Strong School and Southern — under the leadership of President Mary Papazian — will “prepare children for careers in college,” Harries said.

At the press conference, Papazian praised DeStefano as a proponent of public education and said the collaboration between Southern and the Strong School would train New Haven youth in “21st-century competencies,” including technology skills as well as languages necessary to compete in the global economy: Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and sign language.

Celentano Principal Keisha Hannans said the funds will be used to develop new programming surrounding biotechnology, health and medical sciences at her K-8 school. A medical laboratory will give students hands-on experience and exposure to new technology.

Two of her students took to the podium to explain how the new resources would further their career aspirations. Korey Kornegay, 11, said he wants to be a doctor, and that he was looking forward to learning more about science and technology.

The Quinnipiac Real World Math STEM School will focus on math skills for children in grades K-4. New Haven Montessori Magnet School is set to open next fall. The Montessori school will place a premium on inquiry-based learning while integrating STEM training into hands-on projects.

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