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Franklin Academy (Connecticut)

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Title: Franklin Academy (Connecticut)  
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Subject: Asperger syndrome, Boarding schools in Connecticut, List of schools for people on the autistic spectrum, Learning disabilities, East Haddam, Connecticut
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Franklin Academy (Connecticut)

Franklin Academy
East Haddam, Connecticut
Type Private
Motto Belong, Grow, Succeed
Established 2001
Grades 8–12 and PG's (post-graduate pre-college)
Enrollment 80[1]
Mascot The Phoenix

Franklin Academy is a college prep boarding school in East Haddam, Connecticut, United States, serving students in grades 812 and PG's (post-graduate pre-college) who have an "auditory learning style preference." The school's primary mission is to serve adolescents and young adults with nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and Asperger's Syndrome.

The headmaster of Franklin Academy is Frederick Weissbach.[2] The school officially opened in September 2003 with 33 students and currently enrolls approximately 80. The Academy is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.[3]


  • History 1
  • Curriculum 2
  • Summer Sojourn 3
  • Services 4
  • Buildings and facilities 5
  • Extracurriculars 6
  • Traditions 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Franklin Academy was the first boarding school for students with NLD and Asperger's syndrome.[4] The school was incorporated in 2001 and opened with 33 students in 2003. The founding administrative team was Frederick Weissbach (headmaster), Dr. Tom Hays (educational director), Mary Murphy (residential director), Cindy Pope (admissions director), and Lee Barsom (director of operations). In 2007, Dr. Rebecca Hays (clinical director) joined the administrative team.
As the school has grown, they have developed and continually modified a team structure. Each team has a learning specialist, a counselor, a residential dean, a math teacher, science teacher, and two Humanities teachers. Students on each team live together and take classes together, except for electives and some math courses.

  • In 2006, they created the Level 3 program, also known as Team D, to help students transition to college. The other teams were broken into A (all non-Level 3 girls), B (younger boys, and some older boys who needed additional structure), and C (older boys).
  • In 2009, they created the Franklin Learning Institute (FLI). Initially, with 3 students, it was exclusively a college transition program.
  • In 2010, FLI merged with Team D.
  • In 2012, the girls were split into Team A (for younger girls) and Team B (for older girls). Team C was renamed to serve younger boys, with Team D serving older boys, and FLI remaining the college transition program.
  • In 2013, Team A was temporarily eliminated.

The school has maintained a 2:1 student to faculty ratio.[5]

In 2013, Franklin Academy was the recipient of the Asperger's Awareness Council grant.[6]


The year is organized into five 5-week quints and two 2-3 week intersessions.[7] Students take a math course, science course, and a double block in humanities. All students also take Individual & Community class (co-taught by the residential dean, learning specialist, and counselor), elective courses, and two intersessions (co-taught by teachers from different disciplines) each year. Classes are skill-based as opposed to covering specific content each year.

The average class size is 5 students.[8]

A transition to college program, Franklin Learning Institute, serves seniors and post-graduates.[9] Eligible seniors and post-graduates may take online classes through Post University. Seniors in the FLI program also participate in a weeklong Capstone service project off campus.[10]

Summer Sojourn

In July, the school runs a Summer Sojourn program which focuses on experiential learning. This program enrolls a mix of students newly accepted for the Fall, students from other schools who meet program admissions requirements, and some of the current Franklin students.[11]


The school employs five counselors with Masters or Ph.D. degrees, two registered nurses, four learning specialists, six residential deans, a speech and language pathologist and an occupational therapist. An adolescent psychiatrist is on campus twice a week.[12]

In the evenings, the Learning Center is available for scheduled appointments or drop-in peer tutoring.

Students in the Franklin Learning Institute can participate in internship programs partnering with local organizations. These organizations have included the Goodspeed Opera House, the Middletown YMCA, the Ray of Light animal rescue farm, the New Britain Rock Cats minor league baseball team, and Gillette Castle.

Buildings and facilities

There are six dorms on campus: a main dormitory that houses most students, and five smaller satellite dorms for advanced seniors and postgraduate students. There is a science center, a main school building, and a humanities building, which was completed in November 2011. The admissions building is located at the front of campus. The dining hall is next to the athletic field, and under it is the library. The student center is attached to the medical center. There is also a small gym with a workout room. The dining hall is managed by Sage Dining Services.


The Phoenix Spark is a literary magazine, published annually by the Franklin Academy Arts Program, to showcase the poetry, short stories, artwork and photographs of participating Franklin students.[13]
Franklin Academy competes in the New England Math League and the American Mathematics Competition.
The most active club is Dungeons & Dragons, which is run independently by students.
Instead of official sports teams, all students participate in Life Sports classes. Offerings have included Dance Dance Revolution, Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Bocce, Dodgeball, and Yoga. Some students also participate in 5K races organized through the Hartford Marathon Foundation.


Franklin has several annual events including:

  • The G.F.O., the Greater Franklin Open, is a mini-golf tournament held each fall throughout campus. Each team, the dining hall staff, nurses, and administrators construct golf holes with reused materials. Prizes are awarded for the most creative hole, lowest team score, and sartorial splendor. Each member of the team with the lowest score receives a custom-fit GFO Champion windbreaker.
  • The Travel Skit features faculty acting out exaggerations of airport mishaps over the years. The skit traditionally occurs on the Wednesday before students leave for Thanksgiving vacation.
  • Trivia Night is held in March. Teams complete a Pathfinder, where they find a series of clues hidden around campus, a Scavenger Hunt, and a round of trivia questions.
  • π Day Observed is held on the Wednesday closest to March 14. The celebration includes a performance of a parody song written and performed by the Math Department. Student teams compete in a trivia competition, generate as many pi-words as they can, play pin the pi on the face, and recite as many digits as possible. The dining hall prepares a meal consisting of foods containing the substring "pi" or the "pi" sound.
  • Closing Ceremony is held the Wednesday night before graduation. Graduating seniors and post-graduates share memories and advice with the community and receive symbolic gifts from faculty. Graduating students pass candles to the rising seniors.
  • Senior Dinner is held the Friday night before graduation. Graduating seniors, post-graduates, and their families meet at the Gelston House to be honored. The headmaster presents each student with a book based on their passions.


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External links

  • Franklin Academy Website
  • FranklinAcademyCT on Facebook
  • NBC CT feature

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