The number of Columbia students attending Windham High School has sharply declined in the last year, as 66 currently attend the high school, but only eight are in the current freshman class.
The Windham Tri-Board of Intergovernmental Programs and Operations had requested the enrollment breakdown for its Tuesday (Nov. 29) meeting, which Superintendent Ana Ortiz provided.
The tri-board met Tuesday (Nov. 29) and discussed a number of topics with Ortiz.
Tri-board Chairman Andrew Carey III said he had read the enrollment figure in a previous story published by the Chronicle and wanted to hear more about it.
This morning, Carey elaborated and said the number in the current freshman class – eight – had surprised him.
He offered some reasons why the total enrollment was low and said there’s “a lot more options” for Columbia parents to send their children, while school performance is certainly a possibility as to why there are fewer Columbia students at Windham High School.
Currently, Columbia students can go to Lyman Memorial High School in Lebanon, Windham High School in Willimantic, Bolton High School and E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield.
They can also attend Windham Technical High School and regional magnet high schools, such as ones operated by EastConn or schools run by the Capital Region Education Council (CREC).
“It’s tougher getting them back than it is to keep them,” Carey said.
Carey said he was disappointed students from Columbia were going elsewhere, because many are good athletes and do well in the classroom, often going on to college.
Meanwhile, their absence has likely affected Windham’s test scores, Carey said.
Also, there’s a revenue loss.
According to a tuition figure supplied from Columbia’s central office, the budgeted tuition is $10,262.51 per student for the 2011-12 school year.
“It’s a significant amount of money,” Carey said this morning, adding enrollment is down while expenses have gone up.
However, Carey said he was pleased the school was doing outreach and meeting with Columbia officials.
During Tuesday’s tri-board meeting, Ortiz said both she and Windham Special Master Steven Adamowski – the state Department of Education-appointed liaison to the school district – will meet with Columbia Board of Education members on Monday (Dec. 5) to discuss changes at Windham High School.
That board meets at 7:30 p.m. at Columbia’s Horace W. Porter School library media center.
Ortiz touched briefly in the drop in high school students from Columbia.
“This year we had a major dip,” Ortiz said. “But we want to change that shift.”
Ortiz detailed discussions with the high school improvement team – a mix of teachers, administrators and other staff – that would head Windham away from a traditional high school model and go with two, 400-student academies within the current high school building.
While still in the conceptual phase, school officials have come up with a STEM academy (science, technology, engineering and math) and an arts and humanities academy, which would focus on visual and performing arts, writing, social sciences and world languages.
The goal behind the high school redesign is to raise student achievement and make gains on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test – the state’s exam administered to 10th-graders.
Ortiz also noted that, starting in late January, the high school day would be extended another 30 minutes.
The redesign changes would impact next year’s ninth- and 10th-graders in 2012-13.
“Right now, we’re still in the planning phases,” Ortiz said.
She added the school is also looking at the possibility of trimesters as opposed to marking periods.
Carey asked if students, as a result of the redesign, would be college-ready.
“That’s our intent,” Ortiz said, adding school officials want students to succeed and go on to college.
Councilman Lorraine McDevitt asked if school officials are working on increasing the number of Columbia students at the high school.
“That’s the intent,” Ortiz said in response.
Ortiz also talked about the possibility of merging town and school finance offices and said the two entities need to look at computer software that is compatible.
She added she’s willing to continue discussions. “It’s a conversation that’s continuous,” she said.
Ortiz also touched on merging the town and school’s information and technology offices, which she said would likely be the easiest transition.
She also talked about the impact of the $40 million Windham inter-district magnet school on other school buildings and said a comprehensive facilities plan needs to be developed.
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