MERIDEN — Area Cooperative Education Services, the operator of Thomas Edison Middle Magnet School, is in lease talks for a new facility for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Last month, Meriden Public Schools notified ACES of its option to operate the 20-year-old building on North Broad Street owned by the city. Meriden Public Schools recently extended its five-year contract with ACES for only one year, as it seeks state approval and funding to operate its own magnet middle school in what is now the Edison building. Towns with students attending Edison, including Wallingford, were also notified.
ACES began searching for alternative sites months ago after learning MPS had studied its middle school student enrollment. At a meeting in January, ACES administrators informed parents that Thomas Edison Middle School would remain open, but possibly not at its North Broad Street location. ACES intends to keep the school name.
“ACES will be moving the magnet school to a new nearby location that we not only think will work well for teaching and learning in a STEM magnet school, but also will meet the safety, distancing and technology expectations of our parents, students and staff,” ACES Executive Director Thomas Danehy wrote last week to parents.
Danehy would not reveal the location of the potential site.
Parents of students currently enrolled at Edison will be provided with regular updates, according to Danehy. The school will continue to enroll students in grades six through eighth and will run its lottery for the following school year in December 2020.
Meriden Public Schools began researching its options in December, soon after discovering a reported middle school enrollment bubble at both Lincoln and Washington middle schools. Meriden currently sends 520 students to Edison. Other participating districts send 187 students and include Middletown, Waterbury, Region 13, Wallingford, Cromwell, Berlin, New Britain, North Haven, Wethersfield, Portland, Torrington and Watertown.
Meriden is allowed to send 80 percent of the total student body of 800 students.
The middle school study committee recommended to the Meriden Board of Education on June 23 that it send letters notifying ACES and participating districts that it may exercise its option to operate Edison in 2021-22. It also sent notice to the state Department of Education.
"The board should take formal action and let the partners know we reserve the right to discontinue the partnership agreement," Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni said at the time. "There could be another outcome, but this could protect the district.”
To operate Edison as a magnet school, Meriden Public Schools would require a change in state statute awarding the same level of funding ACES now receives.
A spokesman for the state Department of Education said Wednesday there are no specific limits placed on the number of magnet schools in any area; the Hartford area and the New Haven area, for example, both have several magnet schools offering opportunities for students.
“CSDE does not view magnets being in competition with each other, but rather, offering more opportunities for uniquely themed learning experiences in diverse settings,” said spokesman Peter Yazbak in an e-mail statement.
Meriden could absorb $609,103 in operating costs and $575,275 in technology support that ACES now includes in its operating budget.
Edison tuition is currently $5,643 per pupil, with the state reimbursing $8,180.
ACES currently operates three magnet and eight special education schools. It also operates a federally-funded Early Head Start Program for Middlesex and Hartford counties with the Capitol Region Education Council, Catholic Charities and the Village for Families. The program operates on a $9.1 million federal award.
Thomas Edison was named a National Magnet School of Distinction in January.