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May 21. 2012 11:25PM

Manchester’s new tech high school to pick first class via lottery

MANCHESTER — The first class entering the new, four-year high school program at the Manchester School of Technology will be chosen through a lottery rather than through competitive evaluations, the school principal said.

The state Board of Education approved the creation of a full-time high school at MST beginning next year.

For Principal Karen White, the immediate task is to select the first class of 100 students. School administrators and Superintendent Thomas Brennan will take some time to map plans for the application process. Meetings with parents and potential students will be set for three schools in June, prior to the end of the school year.

Approval for the school from the state board prompted a flurry of interest from prospective students and their parents.

“We’ve gotten lots and lots of phone calls,” White said.

A competitive admissions process might be implemented in the future, but that didn’t seem like the best way to go when recruting the school’s first class.

“We don’t want to do that initially because we want to make sure that we meet the needs of the students who apply,” White said. “We’re just starting out. We don’t want to have some kind of a board picking and choosing students.”

City educators have pushed for the program as a way to integrate technical and academic subjects and they were pleased to gain state approval to begin in the fall.

“I’m ecstatic. We’ve put so much hard work into making this happen,” White said. “I’m pleased that people can see the value in what we are doing.”

Students will learn traditional academic subjects in a “project-based” environment, while a student’s vocational or technical area of concentration will provide a practical framework for subjects such as English, mathematics or social studies.

“So many kids are disconnected from what they learn, they often can’t see what they are learning it for,” White said. “But when you can teach students to learn math and can tell them ‘you won’t be able to build stairs for the house without it,’ it makes sense for them.”

The inaugural year of the program will include only the first-year class.

The term “first-year” was chosen, rather than “freshman” to develop and emphasize the school’s mission of developing competence in various subjects through the four-year program.

The 100-student first crop will be smaller than the anticipated size of subsequent classes. Enrollment will increase to 125 students for the class that enters in 2013, and then to 150.

With only a first-year class entering next year, and the traditional two-year program in place for juniors and seniors continuing, MST will have freshmen, juniors and seniors on campus in its first year as a full-fledged high school, but no sophomores.

Traditionally, students in the two-year vocational and technical programs return to their home schools for final examinations at the end of the school year,, so MST will have several days in June to use for in-service days to get ready to welcome the first group of new students at the end of the summer.

Meetings next week could establish a schedule for making application to the new high school. White said enthusiasm for the program has been building, which could result in the program seeing more applicants than it has openings.

“We had an open house in January and had over 60 parents asking for an application,” White said.

Parents appear to believe that the program will help their children find careers in the modern workforce without the time and expense of college.

“Some of our programs for the technology side have better equipment than some of the colleges,” White said. “You walk into some of our classrooms and people are blown away. They just can’t believe the things that we have to offer.”


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