Parents, teachers and public officials gathered at the Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Learning School on Sunday afternoon for the newly built school’s dedication ceremony.
The school was completed this year under the New Haven School District’s citywide school construction program, a school improvement program that began in 1995, on the site of the former Helene Grant School. The new building is named for Reginald Mayo, who worked in the school district for 46 years, served as superintendent from 1992 to 2013 and is returning as interim superintendent for this school year. The facility, which opened this September at 185 Goffe St., serves 560 pre-kindergarten children and cost $51 million to build.
“[Mayo] knew before the science that young people’s brains develop early,” Mayor Toni Harp said at the dedication ceremony.
Harp said the key to a successful start in school occurs before kindergarten, and Mayo should be applauded for his foresight in advocating for early childhood education during his term as superintendent.
Children enrolled in the school sang to the crowd at the start of the ceremony before public officials gave speeches. An open house followed the hourlong ceremony.
David Cicarella, president of the New Haven teacher’s union, said that although collaboration has recently become a buzzword in education, Mayo has actually united community members and educators, guiding NHPS out of hard times during his term as superintendent. Mayo understood the challenges teachers face and asked for their input, Cicarella said, adding that Mayo is a “good man and a decent person.”
Superintendent Garth Harries said he keeps an op-ed written by Mayo titled “A College Degree Saved My Life” on his office corkboard for inspiration. He said the piece captures Mayo’s aspirations for all students in the district.
At the ceremony, Harries thanked the school’s faculty, contractors and legislators, including the New Haven Board of Education. Harries asked that the school district continue to support Mayo’s work and the work of their mutual successor. Harries also said he hopes the district enhances play-based and trauma-informed learning methods to help build children’s resiliency.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said at the ceremony that New Haven has been a pioneer in emphasizing early childhood education. He praised the efforts of Harries and Mayo as well as mayors Harp and John DeStefano.
Jennifer Heath, CEO of the New Haven nonprofit United Way, announced at the ceremony that the organization is launching an effort to raise money to purchase books for the school’s library.
According to the 2016 Greater New Haven Community Data Index, the number of regulated childcare spots for 3- to 4-year-old children in the area accounts for only 86 percent of total youth in that age group. However, the new spots at Mayo were not included in these numbers, said Mark Abraham ’04, CEO of DataHaven, the data analysis nonprofit, which compiled the report.
The Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Learning School is 65,000 square feet.