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bridgeport Foundation to help fund Classical after-school program

September 18, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — The extended-day portion of Classical Studies Magnet Academy was slated to be discontinued when a chance meeting occurred between the city’s school superintendent and the executive director of the Carver Foundation of Norwalk.

A memorandum of understanding with the Bridgeport Education Association that allowed teachers to work modified schedules — four days a week for longer hours — had ended.

Gary Peluchette, president of the teacher’s union, said staff no longer felt the alternative schedule, which allowed for the extended day, was in the best interest of teaching and learning.

Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson had just gotten off the phone with Hernan Illingworth, the school board vice chairman, who bemoaned the end of the after-school portion of the program, one of the things that drew parents to the magnet school.

“I was at an event and Novelette (Peterkin) was receiving an award,” Johnson said of the foundation director.

Peterkin, whose organization runs after-school programs in Norwalk, offered to help.

Now, the Norwalk-based charitable foundation is prepared to run and partially fund Classical’s extended day.

A plan for Carver to run a 90-minute, four-day-a-week extension to the Classical school day won a preliminary nod from Jessica Martinez and Chris Taylor of the Board of Education’s Finance Committee and heads to the full board later this month.

“This is a way for us to keep that extended day program in place,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, we would not have had anything.”

Now, the plan is to make the program voluntary for teachers and students.

Lindsay Davis, an assistant principal at Classical, said school administrators, who are assessing options, are fairly certain there will be enough interest to run the program, particularly among parents.

“We believe enrollment will be high, based on inquiries,” Davis said.

Principal Helen Giles said she is excited and believes the partnership will increase student achievement.

Carver is a large provider of after-school programs and summer programs in Norwalk, operating out of a community center, city schools and Side By Side Charter School. It offers intensive project-based instruction and enrichment in many subjects using certified teachers. Most of its programs are free.

It would be free to students at Classical. The potential contract, which is still being reviewed by the district’s attorneys, would cost the district $110,000, with Carver raising an additional $100,000.

The program would run Oct. 15 through May 10 for grades three through eight. A similar voluntary program for kindergarten through second-graders will be funded through a state priority grant.

Taylor of the finance committee wondered what happens if Carver can’t raise the extra cash.

“I don’t want the hopes of children up ... and have it taken away from them because funding wasn’t matched,” Taylor said.

Peterkin told Taylor that if the commitment is made, the foundation will deliver. She noted there was similar skepticism in Norwalk when the group started working there.

Illingworth, who was not at the committee meeting but whose daughter once attended Classical, said he was pleased that a way was found to preserve the extended-day program.

Johnson said the foundation’s willingness to raise funds toward the program is what made them so attractive.

“The timing was right. The stars aligned,” Johnson said.

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