Middletown board rejects superintendent’s plan for $10M school expansion

A superintendent’s plan to spend $10 million on expanding a Middletown school - and change its academic program - was unanimously rejected by the school board Monday evening.

The meeting of the Middletown Board of Education drew one of the largest crowds in recent years – most of them parents and supporters of Central Academy School, some of whom criticized Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr.’s plan, which also included changing the long-time academic program at the school.

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The 5-0 rejection vote was the most public rebuke to date by the board of a major Styles reform plan, which have in the last two years included historic and sweeping changes to the city schools, since the board hired him in 2017.

A crowd of more than 120 packed the city chambers also used by the board for its public meetings.

Central Academy parent Meagan Hurley told the board that while she liked the proposed designs for the $10 million expansion and renovation of the school, she didn’t care for the plans to move its sixth-graders to another school and change Central Academy’s project-based learning program to another curricula.

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“We all feel a little blind-sided by the introduction of the new (academic) program that we knew nothing about. We are very concerned that the (new) program was developed without input from our (teaching) staff. Central Academy has been an innovative school for 25 years,” she said.

“The sixth grade is a very important part of our multi-age classroom structure,” she said.

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The plan for the the 425-student Central Academy includes an additional 13 classrooms built onto its existing school, which enrolls kindergarten through sixth grades at its 461 Sophia Ave. campus.

Funding for the new classrooms would come from $10 million in savings from Middletown’s recent $96 million construction project at its high school campus that saw a new middle school built adjacent to the renovated Middletown High School.

The expansion costs will not include asking taxpayers for addtional funds.

Styles contended in his proposal presentation that moving Central sixth graders to Highview Elementary was a necessary part of the plan and also argued the project needed the board’s approval at the meeting to adhere to construction deadlines that would allow the newly expanded school to open as soon as possible.

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