Norwich — Three Rivers Community College plans to open the Middle College Magnet High School Aug. 27 for up to 30 juniors and seniors interested in studying engineering, technology, business, finance and hospitality management.
The college hopes to expand the program, which will emphasize math and science, to 300 students within five years.
Three Rivers President Grace Jones announced the program Wednesday but said college officials have been working on the plan since 2008. She said it had to be “put in the drawer” during a state moratorium on new school construction.
But this spring, the General Assembly approved the magnet school, and Jones hopes to apply for state bond funding to build a new school building at the New London Turnpike college campus during the next legislative session.
In the meantime, the Middle College Magnet School will be located on the second floor of the community college, above the child care center.
Three Rivers received approval for the magnet school from the state Department of Education, bringing funding totaling $7,900 per student from the state. In addition, the school will charge students’ towns $5,500 per student in tuition. The first year’s budget will be about $400,000, Jones said.
The school will be open only to incoming juniors and seniors who must meet grade-level requirements including passing the 10th grade Connecticut Academic Performance Test in their hometown schools. Students will be accepted by lottery if necessary.
The college will hold open houses in the weeks of July 23 and Aug. 6 on the Three Rivers campus. Dates and times for the sessions will be announced later this week.
For the dual-enrollment high school, the students will complete high school graduation requirements while having the opportunity to take college classes. The fields of study were selected to respond to the region’s workforce needs, Three Rivers officials said.
The school will offer after-school activities but no sports, officials said.
Three Rivers officials have been working with LEARN, the southeastern Connecticut regional educational service agency, since 2008 to establish the school. Edward Derr, former principal at the Norwich alternative high school Thames River Academy and also an adjunct Three Rivers professor, worked with Three Rivers history professor Terry Delaney to research the proposed high school program.
They visited schools, did research, and worked with LEARN Director of Development Doreen Marvin to put together the program, Jones said.
Jones said she was “driving the train” in establishing the program. She said she is especially concerned about improving math education at the high school level.
Jones said it makes sense for Three Rivers to expand its program to include an upper high school program. About 1,500 high school students are earning Three Rivers college credits, most at their own high schools. In addition, Three Rivers runs a four- to six-week summer transitional program for high school graduates enrolled in Three Rivers to give them a “boost” on their college education, Jones said.
“I think that we’re tried and true in this area,” Jones said. “The kinds of programs we will offer will give the students their math and science, and we’re asking them to look into science and technology. Those areas are viable. They can feel like they can achieve and achieve very well.”
Launching the school just seven weeks before it opens will be challenging for both Three Rivers and LEARN, officials said. Marvin, the LEARN development director, said LEARN will advertise soon for the staff and administration. The school might need to name an interim director or look for assistance from another LEARN magnet school director at the start, Marvin said.
The school plan came together too late to reach out to local high school guidance counselors to gauge student interest, so college leaders will use the open houses, advertisements and some advance publicity to attract students for the first year.
Marvin said Manchester Community College and Quinebaug Valley Community College run magnet high schools. Quinebaug’s school is in partnership with EASTCONN, the northeastern Connecticut regional educational agency similar to LEARN. Marvin said Three Rivers will use the experience of those programs to start the new Three Rivers magnet school.
“It’s nice to be able to start with a small number of students and grow it,” Marvin said.