History of IDCS
The IDCS is a pre-kindergarten through grade eight public charter school located in Norwich, Connecticut, serving a diverse population of students from Norwich and 16 surrounding towns. Located in a renovated Thermos Company factory, the school is unique when compared to traditional public school facilities. The openness, visibility of infrastructure, historic elements saved during construction, high ceilings and view of the Thames River provide a unique and beautiful setting for learning.
The integrated day program initially began within the existing Norwich Public School system in 1989. When the charter school legislation passed in 1997, veteran teachers Joan Heffernan, June Morrone and Joyce Werden, with volunteer Sandy Quarto, were poised and ready to create an alternative school, providing free public school choice for all members of the Norwich community and eventually, surrounding towns. Parents of students in the program and citizens supporting the idea of school choice joined forces and a charter was granted to establish the Integrated Day Charter School.
The charter was awarded in February, 1997, and a search for a location began. After researching many options, the founding board decided to renovate the former Thermos Factory, taking advantage of large open spaces, bright classrooms and an environment that invited integrated learning. The school opened its doors in August 1997 with 175 students and a sizable waiting list. The IDCS is truly a community school. Parents, community members and teachers worked together to insure that the school would open on time, and, against all odds, it did just that.
The Integrated Day Charter School is located in a historic building that had been neglected for many years. The founders of the school worked diligently to find funding, through the city of Norwich, to demolish and remove two derelict buildings on the property. Staff, parents, students and community members combined efforts to clean up and landscape areas surrounding the school, which now include a memorial garden and playscape. As a result, the IDCS received the 1998 Connecticut Real Estate Achievement Award in recognition of the community development that had the greatest positive impact on the state of Connecticut.
Renovation of portions of the building have been ongoing since our doors opened throughout the schools existence. The second phase of construction included the dining area, classroom space and a storage area on the lower level and was completed in August, 1998 while space for the middle school, storage and offices was completed in the fall of 2001. An addition that includes a gymnasium, kitchen, elevator, offices and meeting space was completed in January 2008 through a facilities grant from the State Department of Education.
The school has grown from 175 students in 1997-1998 (kindergarten through grade six) to its current enrollment of 352 students (prekindergarten through grade eight). Over time, the needs of the IDCS community have grown, necessitating the addition of a prekindergarten class for 2002-2003. A full-day, day care program was added in the fall of 2006, which was eventually restructured for 2011-2012 due to space constraints and changing day care needs, with an afternoon PreK Plus program and an Extended Day program offered to parents in need of day care during the school day. PreK Plus closed in 2018 to accommodate the space needs of the current program.
Since opening year, the IDCS has been fully enrolled with a substantial waiting list. Four year old students enter the school through a lottery held each spring. When a prekindergarten through grade 8 student exits, the next child on the waiting list is called until a replacement is found, keeping the school at full capacity throughout the school year. As of June 2019, there were over 700 students on the waiting list.
Initially the school was only open to residents of Norwich. In year two it was decided by the IDCS Board of Directors that 15% of the student body could come from other communities, if the parents were willing to provide transportation for the children. (The charter school law mandates bus transportation for Norwich students).
At the present time, nine classes of 22 students (three integrated kindergarten/1st grade classes, three integrated 2nd/3rd grade classes, three integrated 4th/5th grade classes), two classes of 20 (6th grade), four classes of 20 (integrated 7th/8th grade classes) and two classes of 17 (prekindergarten) are staffed by certified teachers with the assistance of paraprofessionals and interns. The school has increased its capacity to its current size of 352 students, which has allowed the middle school to have four full time teachers.
This school was established through countless hours of selfless labor and a commitment by the parents, teachers and the community. The pride and dedication of all involved are readily apparent.