Students from the Engineering and Science University Magnet School attended class for the first time last week in their new school building, a state of the art five-story structure on the University of New Haven’s campus in West Haven.
The magnet school, which is part of the New Haven school district but also enrolls students from West Haven and other communities, was temporarily located in Hamden while its permanent building was under construction. According to Principal Medria Blue-Ellis, who has led the school since it opened in 2007, the new facilities will provide students with both advanced technology and the opportunity to earn college credit.
“The greatest feature of the new building is the innovation lab, which is an engineering lab that has all the equipment that we’ll need to have a strong robotics program and to fully implement our curriculum,” she said.
The combined middle and high school boasts modern science and technology equipment, including robotics and computer labs, and a strong partnership with UNH.
The ESUMS encourages students to start taking classes at UNH as early as the 10th grade. Now, students enrolled at the school, which selects students based on lottery system, can take advantage of its relationship with UNH by taking college classes in buildings that are just steps from the recently completed school building. Blue-Ellis said she hopes the more convenient location will allow the school’s relationship with UNH to grow even stronger.
According to West Haven Superintendent Neil Cavallaro, the ESUMS has been housed in varying locations in New Haven since 2007 while awaiting the completion of its permanent space. Although Cavallaro has not yet toured the school, he said he is optimistic about the kinds of opportunities that will come with the new facilities.
“It’s a theme magnet and the theme revolves around STEM,” he said. “My understanding is that there are state of the art buildings, science labs, robotics classes and all the things that are necessary to give kids the kind of experience to develop critical thinking skills in these areas.”
Cavallaro added that opening a school on the campus of a university has been a longtime goal of New Haven Interim Superintendent Reginald Mayo. The two districts worked together on many aspects of the new school, and, as a result, roughly 25 percent of the spots will go to West Haven residents.
Claudia Merson, Yale’s director of public school partnerships, said the New Haven school district is almost completely made up of themed magnet schools at the high school level in order to attract students from surrounding communities. This policy came about after a 1996 court case that required Connecticut schools to desegregate, which New Haven aimed to do by creating interdistrict magnet schools where about 30 percent of the student body came from surrounding towns.
As a result of this magnet school funding stream, specialized schools like the ESUMS have become the norm in the New Haven district, Merson said.
“I really don’t see any downsides,” she said. “[The school construction project] really gave the children of New Haven the kind of school buildings they deserve.”