Equipped with Hannah Montana backpacks, freshly braided cornrows and pressed white uniform shirts, the students at Augusta Lewis Troup School yesterday were ready to face a new school year — and a new school building, thanks to a $52 million renovation project courtesy of Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s Citywide School Construction Program.
Parents, teachers and students of the Augusta Lewis Troup School on 259 Edgewood Ave. celebrated the reopening of the K-8 school early Thursday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and red-carpet procession into the school. The school, closed for remodeling during the last two years, is the 26th school in the city to reopen after closing for renovations sponsored by a $1.5 billion plan to reinvigorate schools in the New Haven district.
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But parents at the ceremony, though excited, were also apprehensive, wondering whether cosmetic changes to the school will translate into a better education for their children.
New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo, though, said the renovations will do just that. The remodeling project will pump new energy into the school, he said, and brings out the beauty in the surrounding neighborhood.
Mayo said he was an Earth-Space Science teacher at Augusta Lewis Troup School at the beginning of his career, and he said the classrooms he once taught in “weren’t aesthetically beautiful.” Now, students at the school will be able to focus on learning, Mayo said, without the distraction of leaking classrooms or broken heating units.
“What other superintendent in the country can boast of a $1.5 billion construction project?” Mayo said.
Tina, a parent who declined to give her surname, was once a student in Mayo’s science class when she attended Augusta Lewis Troup School. Now, Tina’s daughter is a sixth-grader at her alma mater, and she said she is hopeful that the renovated building — which features a new gymnasium, relocated library and better science facilities — will help her daughter perform better in the classroom.
But Tina, whose numerous tattoos peek out from underneath the straps of her pink wife-beater, said she is skeptical. New classrooms do not necessarily make for a better education, she said, and if classes at the school are still crowded, she said she will be placing her daughter in a charter school.
“I want to make sure she gets the best education possible,” Tina said. “And that can’t happen with 30 kids in a classroom.”
First-grader Eric, with the help of DeStefano, snipped apart the white ribbon tied across the front doors of the school. Students filed into the new building in order of classroom grade, escorted by three members of the Connecticut Governor’s Foot Guard, a ceremonial state military unit. Two of the guards wore their full official regalia, complete with knee-high boots and breeches, red jackets with brass buttons, a sword hanging off one shoulder, and a tall, black, furry hat — in the style of Buckingham Palace Guards.
As the fifth-graders filed into the gleaming new building, Ella, who declined to give her surname, cheered them on with encouraging phrases.
“You look really good!” Ella shouted. “Learn as well as you look!”
Ella, who has lived across the street from the Augusta Lewis Troup School for 50 years, has watched as her son and two daughters graduate from the school. Now, she said, she still sits on the porch of her home to watch schoolchildren file in and out of the building every day. Augusta Lewis Troup School has always been a fixture in the community, she said, and the renovation of the building will keep the students inspired to focus on learning and stay out of trouble.
“They look great. I pray to God that they will learn great,” Ella said, gazing at the rows of seventh- and eighth-graders funneling into the glistening glass double-doors. “I believe they will. They will.”