A new private school with a one-to-one classroom model for kids in grades 6-12 is set to open on September 8. Fusion Academy Greenwich will be located just over the town line, on the water in Stamford at 66 Gatehouse Road, which is accessible to Greenwich residents without having to get on I-95.
Head of School and Area Manager for Fusion Academy and Learning Center, Dr. Jennifer Walsh-Rurak, Ed.D. recently shared her enthusiasm for the school’s unique model, and in particular for the opening of the Greenwich School. Walsh-Rurak, who lives in Cos Cob herself and has two children in Cos Cob School, said Fusion has multiple accreditations.
Walsh-Rurak will lead the Greenwich Fusion Academy after from serving for 2-1/2 years as Head of School in White Plains location at 701 Westchester Ave. She’ll be replaced in White Plains by Ryan Loucks.
Fusion Greenwich school will be the 31st Fusion Academy school since the first opened in the San Diego area in 1989.
Meeting at the White Plains Fusion Academy location while the Greenwich school is under constructions, Walsh-Rurak explained how the one-on-one model works. Students typically spend three hours of class paired with a single instructor, and three hours of supervised homework time, with a choice of venues between the “silent homework café” and the “social homework café.” At the end of the day the student heads home or to a sport or activity without the burden of homework.
“We can really customize our instruction with the one-on-one model,” Walsh-Rurak said, contrasting the model to traditional high school where she said instructors, “teach to the middle and support the kids who are struggling ad increase the rigor of kids who are excelling.” At Fusion Academy, course material is presented at the student’s pace and delivered in a way that best supports their interests, strengths and challenges.
The White Plains Fusion Academy boasts classrooms for the one-on-one instruction, an art room, sound proof music studio, science lab, both a silent and social homework café, a yoga studio, dance studio.
Fridays at Fusion are a “mastery day,” which is optional and affords students a chance to catch up, organize a community service activity or go on a field trip.
From Monday to Thursday, lunch is a full hour long, in order to build in time for club meetings and planning of community service projects. So while the instructional model is one-on-one, the opportunities to collaborate are multiple.
Indeed Walsh-Rurak speaks from experience. She spent nine years as a school principal — four at the elementary level and five at the middle school level — in public school settings in New York State and taught at the middle school level prior to becoming an administrator. She earned her doctorate in Instructional Leadership from Northeastern University.
After 2-1/2 years with Fusion, including opening the White Plains location, Walsh-Rurak is eager to bring the one-on-one model to Greenwich. To what type of student does the one-on-one model fit? Medically sensitive students find their way to Fusion. For example, students with eating disorders benefit from the model. At Fusion they can put their education on pause if necessary.
The school also appeals to students who have a very serious commitment to activity outside of school that requires their education to have flexibility. There are serious dancers, athletes and theater kids. Walsh-Rurak said students who have been bullied in the traditional public school setting can really blossom at Fusion. “This is one of the most accepting environments,” she said.
Describing how typically families will come to tour Fusion Academy for a solution to what might feel quite urgent, when Walsh-Rurak will inquire about vocational or college goals, “They’ll say, ‘Please just get my kid through high school,’ but then a month later the student have an amazing pure confidence boost, sometimes for the very first time.”
Fusion graduates small classes, typically with a cap of around 70 students in order to keep the small school feel, but that doesn’t mean all the traditional fun aspects of high school are sacrificed. Because there are other Fusion Academy schools in Brooklyn, Lincoln Center and Park Avenue, as well as several in New Jersey (Woodbridge, Princeton, Morristown and Englewood), a combined prom was possible. So too was an optional trip to Costa Rica and the creation of a basketball team. Even graduation was a shared experience.
“The social aspect is such an important of their development. They learn to manage conflict and navigate the social dynamic,” Walsh-Rurak said, of the opportunities for shared experiences among the nearby Fusion Academies. The high schoolers can join clubs, work on the yearbook, participate in community service projects in groups.
With the one-on-one instructional model, students are allowed to pick their “lead teacher” who oversees all their classes and facilitates school-home communication.
At the recent graduation ceremony, Walsh-Rurak there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. At the ceremony each student’s lead teacher spoke on behalf of the student.
“The pride in their faces — to have that moment was tremendous,” she said, adding that some students have overcome tremendous difficulties. And, she said, students have recently gone on to colleges including Notre Dame, George Washington and NYU.
And while about 70% of students attend Fusion full-time, there are other options. Some students enlist for after-school tutoring and mentoring for a couple hours in the afternoon. They engage in skill-building, get homework done, get tutored and take test prep. There is also a way to take an individual course for credit
Homework Café® on campus and students must be signed out by their lead teacher before leaving for the day. This policy enables students to spend quality time with family and friends, while simultaneously making sure they receive the instructional support they require to complete assignments.
Classes are offered year round so students can begin studying at any time during the calendar year, including enrolling for a full schedule of courses over the summer. Students seeking to make up a course, get ahead, or simply have some fun may take standard academic courses for credit or sample the Fusion program by taking the Fusion Intensive. The Fusion Intensive allows students a semester for credit plus a sampling of art/music, Leadership Skills, and Study Skills for a special introductory price.
Parents interested in learning more about Fusion are encouraged to attend one of the school’s information meetings. To attend a meeting or for more information on Fusion’s revolutionary community of learning, visit www.FusionGreenwich.com or call 866.997.6595.