Regional School Choice Fair in South Windsor presents many options

By Cathi Sasportas - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Wed., Feb. 5, 2014
Three-year-old Gabby checks out the beaver skull at one school's display while her mom and dad found out information at the Regional School Choice Fair on Jan. 30. Photos by Cathi Sasportas.
Three-year-old Gabby checks out the beaver skull at one school's display while her mom and dad found out information at the Regional School Choice Fair on Jan. 30. Photos by Cathi Sasportas.

Cars were overflowing the parking lot as families poured into the International Magnet School for Global Citizenship in South Windsor on Thursday, Jan. 30.  The big crowd was not there to attend a school activity or a sporting event, but for a Region School Choice Fair.

The Greater Hartford Regional School Choice Office (RSCO) was holding its fourth school fair of the school year. The goal: to give students a choice in their education.

The RSCO was created by and is part of the Connecticut Department of Education. The program helps families who would like to choose a public school outside of their neighborhood schools.

The school fair looked much like a job fair, with displays set up all around the gym. Each school represented by the RSCO had a display, information and a person to talk to regarding that school. The room was filled with many parents of children who were as young as 2 and 3 years old and all the way through high school.

Ann Gaulin, a program manager for the RSCO, said the school fair is one of the best ways for parents to get important information regarding the school choices that they have. "We explain how the lottery program works, we give them information and help them with the registration process all while they are here tonight," she said. The school's computer lab was used as a registration center with RSCO representatives there to help parents who had any questions.

The RSCO represents all the interdistrict magnet schools in the greater Hartford area, plus it handles the Open Choice program, which allows Hartford students to attend suburban non-magnet public schools and suburban students to attend certain Hartford public schools.

Parents must apply for the open spots that are available, and a lottery determines which students go to which schools. Janet Richardson and her husband were applying for the second year in a row. They applied for their older daughter, Janzé, last year, but were not chosen. This year, they are hoping both Janzé and her 3-year-old sister, Gabby, get into one of the magnet schools. "We really like the one-on-one concept," Richardson said. "Anything that allows them to be free and explore while they learn at the same time would be great."

For the representatives from the schools, this is a way for them to reach the students who would be suited to the education their school specializes in. The magnet schools feature specialties in aerospace, technology, international studies, performing arts, medicine and more.

Heather Gish, the dean of students at the Metropolitan Learning Center Magnet School for Global and International Studies, says she is looking for students who are eager to be exposed to a global learning environment. "We seek to help students become citizens who are globally aware. They leave here knowing that they can make changes in the world," she said.

While the Metropolitan Learning Center serves students in grades 6-12, Jessica Bruenn represented a school focused on the youngest students. The Hartford Pre-Kindergarten Magnet School has 120 3- and 4-year-old students. "We have a hands-on approach," Bruenn said. "We engage them with the community and give them a love for learning at an early age." With all of the 3-year-olds moving up to the 4-year-old program, Bruenn said they have half of their enrollment as open spots for next year.

The RSCO hosts one more school fair coming up on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford. Many of the individual schools have their own open houses as well. You can find out more about all these events by visiting the RSCO website at choiceeducation.org. The deadline to apply for the program is Feb. 28.


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