Just in time for the start of New Haven Public Schools’ academic year, New Haven’s newest school building is open for business.
Around 50 people attended Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the lobby of New Haven Academy, a public high school half a mile from Yale’s campus. New Haven Academy is now in a brand-new brick building that sits on its same site, at the intersection of Orange and Bradley Streets. Students will begin pouring through the doors Thursday morning, the first day of classes at school’s new home.
The refurbished New Haven Academy, unlike other public schools, wears its heart on its sleeve. Its social-justice creed is present — literally — on the school’s walls, where quotations from figures like Albert Einstein, Desmond Tutu and Mahatma Gandhi are also emblazoned.
“Our mission now lives on the walls,” said Meredith Gavrin, a co-founder of the school.
She said Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting marks the culmination of a long journey in New Haven Academy’s history. The school began with 60 students and eight staff members in a small office space. Now, it boasts 265 students and a gleaming new building. The new building for the New Haven Academy is more a state project than a city one: $33 million of the total $44 million cost of construction came from the state’s coffers.
Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting event, featuring state and municipal dignitaries, was as much an opportunity to mark the opening as it was to tout New Haven’s progress in improving education outcomes.
The star presence was that of Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose morning stop in New Haven was his third school visit of the day. He had also visited schools in Wethersfield and Berlin, both school districts that have seen a marked improvement in indicators of school success in recent years.
New Haven, Malloy said, can place itself alongside those towns as beacons of success: Among the state’s large cities, New Haven has led the way in improving graduation rates and test scores. Those successes have been mirrored across the state, as graduation rates — which fell for five years before Malloy became governor — are back on the upswing. But there is still more work to be done, Malloy said, making an impassioned case for devoting resources to public education.
“People understand that our children are our investment,” Malloy said. “We’ve got to do everything in our power to make sure they are appropriately prepared for the rest of their lives, and we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable to make sure that that’s done.”
Mayor Toni Harp made that reality — of a partnership between the state and city — central to her remarks, which seemed at times like a sales pitch for continued state investment in the city.
“We like to think we’re keeping our part of the bargain by improving schools inside of the buildings … we hope that will encourage you, Governor, to continue investing in New Haven,” Harp said. “We have other ideas about capital improvements projects that would help move New Haven forward.”
Citing the well-known proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” Harp said that future progress in improving New Haven’s schools will be a communal endeavor, requiring not only state and municipal government but also the hard work of students and their parents.
New Haven Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 took care to note the technological advancement of the school building. With computer labs, laptops for students, a room for parents and up-to-date security features and protocols, he said, the building is truly “state of the art.”
“We want to make sure that we are starting strong around the district,” Harries said, nodding to the impending school year. “This facility is a great example of the ways we can start strong, making sure our students are equipped with the things they need in order to be prepared for the 21st, and dare I say it, even the 22nd century.”