What a crew! Officials gathered Saturday morning to celebrate the groundbreaking for the state’s largest school building project–the $125 million, 1,500 seat Fairchild Wheeler Multi Magnet High School. Taking the first shovelful of dirt are, from left, Congressman Jim Himes, State Rep. Auden Grogins, State Sen. Anthony Musto, Bridgeport City Council President Tom McCarthy, Joan Wheeler duPont, granddaughter of Daniel Fairchild Wheeler, Supt. of Schools John Ramos Sr., Mayor Bill Finch, State Rep. Andres Ayala and State Rep. Charles “Don” Clemons.
From Mayor Bil Finch:
City, state and federal officials joined Daniel Fairchild Wheeler’s granddaughter to break ground Saturday morning for the largest school building project in state history. The new, 1,500-seat Fairchild Wheeler Multi Magnet High School will be the first new high school to be built in Bridgeport in 50 years. When finished, the new school will offer 1,000 seats for Bridgeport students, with the balance open to students from Trumbull, Monroe, Easton, Fairfield, Shelton, Stratford and Milford.
About 50 people perched on chairs arranged at the mouth of the driveway opening for the new school to hear Mayor Bill Finch, Supt. of Schools John Ramos Sr., Congressman Himes, and Mrs. DuPont discuss the importance of the new high school and the expanded educational opportunities it will offer to students from Bridgeport and the surrounding area.
“We;ve waited a long time for this day, but it’s finally here,” said Mayor Finch. “This school will provide our students with a world-class education that will prepare them for the 21st century world we live in. The curriculum–focusing on aviation, science and information technology–will be one of the most advanced of any high school in the state. We are very grateful to the Wheeler family for allowing us to use the land, which was deeded to the City as a park, to provide a unique educational experience for our students while honoring the family’s wishes.” Mayor Finch also praised the diversified student learning experience the school will provide, as well as the hundreds of jobs that will be created during the anticipated two-year construction period for the school.
Joan Wheeler duPont, Daniel Fairchild Wheeler granddaughter, represented the family at Saturday’s event. “I’m pleased that my family’s legacy and name will be connected with a project that will both honor my grandfather’s wishes, and provide an environmentally sustainable building with a fantastic educational opportunity benefiting the region’s schoolchildren.”
In his brief remarks, Superintendent of School Ramos emphasized the “excellence in equity” that the school will mean to the district, noting how the magnet school will draw from six surrounding towns.
Congressman Himes noted that “there is no better investment in our future than spending money on the education of our children.” Himes also noted the school’s unique curriculum will provide its graduates with the educational background to “start their own company or be an entrepreneur” in a 21st century world that is centered more and more on science and technology.
Daniel Fairchild Wheeler left the land to the City nearly 100 years ago, with instructions that it be used as park land. Approximately 30 acres will be used to construct the school, and the surrounding acreage will be improved with hiking trails and better public access for all to enjoy. The state Legislature voted unanimously last spring to change the city’s boundaries with neighboring Trumbull to move the acreage needed to build the school into Bridgeport in order to allow the project to move forward.
JCJ Architecture of Hartford designed the school, which will feature underground parking, and limited above-ground parking, with an environmentally friendly design meant to minimize the impact of the building on the surrounding woodlands. Fusco Corporation of New Haven has already begun construction on the site; the school is expected to be completed in Fall 2013.