Norwich - Students, parents and other residents asked questions about curriculum, college credits, transportation, tuition and lunch programs Monday during the first open house for the Three Rivers Middle College High School.
Three Rivers Community College plans to open the magnet high school for juniors and seniors on Aug. 29. The first year would be for 30 incoming juniors interested in studying fields of engineering technology, business and finance, and hospitality management.
As a dual enrollment high school, the students would complete high school graduation requirements while having the opportunity to take up to one year's worth of college credit classes.
Three Rivers President Grace Jones called the new high school "a longtime dream" that came together quickly this summer with state approval of the magnet school program and funding. Three Rivers has partnered with LEARN, the southeastern Connecticut regional education agency to create the program and hire the staff.
Scott Brown, high school initiatives consultant for LEARN, told about 15 people in attendance that the middle college high school is not for everyone. If a student is interested in varsity sports or band or art, they should look elsewhere, he said.
Katherine Gilly, of Groton, an incoming junior now at the Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton, knows she wants to study engineering. Gilly started filling out the application for Three Rivers Middle College during Monday's hour-long presentation. She is studying computers at Grasso, and decided she loves the hardware aspects of technology, which is leading her to be interested in engineering.
"I'm applying," she said. "It looks interesting."
Erin Felber of Lebanon said she is strong in leadership and wants to enter the hospitality management program at the new high school.
"I really want to do it," she said, staying after the session to talk to Jones.
Students can apply at the Three Rivers website at www.trcccommnet.edu, or at upcoming open house sessions. If more than 30 students are deemed eligible by the Aug. 10 application deadline, a lottery will be held before Aug. 14, and families will be informed of the results.
Questions about logistics and curriculum dominated Monday's session. Brown said the school hopes to have enough funding - $7,900 per student from the state plus $5,500 in tuition from the home district - to launch a digital portfolio program. Each student would be given a laptop to serve as everything from a textbook to Internet access station and "learning platform."
Initially, the school would require about 23 credits, working up to the new state requirement of 25 credits. The school is holding off on hiring foreign language teachers, he said, to determine the incoming students' needs and skill levels. If necessary, some students could be hooked into a virtual online foreign language course, and advanced students could take Three Rivers college foreign language classes.
Transportation also was an issue. Russ Gomes, a 16-year Board of Education member in the Lyme-Old Lyme school district, asked how busing would work for students in outlying districts.
State law on magnet schools calls for the host town - Norwich - to provide transportation to the school, but Jones said that several towns already send buses to Norwich. Eight towns transport students to Norwich Free Academy, and several others bring students to Norwich Regional Technical High School, also in Norwich, and to St. Bernard's High School nearby in Montville.