Groton middle schoolers head back to class on Tuesday. While they may be returning to the same two school buildings, the schools' names have changed.
West Side Science Technology Engineering and Math Magnet Middle School replaces the former West Side Middle School and the Cutler Middle School is now Cutler Arts and Humanities Magnet Middle School, partnering with Mystic Seaport Museum and Mystic Museum of Arts.
The district is also expanding its international baccalaureate program from the high school to 9th and 10th grades and the middle schools.
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"We're focusing on kids and how to learn. Not just, 'here's some facts, memorize them and forget them later.' It's 'how are you going to get out in the world and be able to survive and succeed in this world that's changing all the time?" said Kathleen Wilson, the IB Middle Years Coordinator.
Dozens of children from the west side of town, military housing and Groton City, chose to go to Cutler. The hope being that allowing students to go where they want to go will help promote diversity. There will be a focus on student-centered type of learning, incorporating as much of the real world as possible, as well as sharpening students' critical thinking skills.
"Right now, we don't even really know how to teach what's coming. It changes so much every day with the technological revolution that we're in," Wilson said.
The IB program will unite the school with the community around it, bringing in professionals working in the fields students are studying.
"Really what it is, is getting the kids in the trenches, doing the work and experiencing their world," Leslie Forbes, the Arts and Humanity Coordinator. said.
They're making education less abstract and more concrete to prepare students not just for upcoming tests, but for their futures.
"Besides training them for real life careers, because they see our artists, they see the camera people from sonalysts who come in and will be talking to students about 'this is a real job, and when you're in here doing CNS broadcasting, you're learning real skills that you can go out and some day maybe get a job in,' but the engagement changes," according to Forbes.
Even more changes could be coming. The design to consolidate both schools under one roof has been approved by the state. The hope is to have it up and running by fall of 2020.