The Elm City will soon be home to what is thought to be New England’s first school named after America’s first black president — Barack Obama.
On Thursday, the New Haven Board of Education held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new Barack H. Obama Magnet University School, which will replace the aging Strong 21st Century Communications School. The school board is overseeing the $45 million project in collaboration with Southern Connecticut University School of Education, and the new magnet school will be located on the SCSU campus, at 69 Farnham Ave.
“The Strong School essentially moves to this new location and the [magnet] program continues,” said William Clark, chief operations officer of the New Haven Board of Education. “The name change was something that came at the [school board] level and was approved through their naming committee. SCSU was supportive of the name change and honoring the former president.”
The Board of Education will pay a symbolic $1 lease, approved by the Board of Alders in January, to operate the magnet school. Early on in the process, though, the collaboration between the board and SCSU faced significant pushback: when the proposal for the joint venture first came to a vote in 2015, the Board of Alders’ Finance Committee rejected it, only to reverse that decision the following year. The groundbreaking marks an important step towards the school’s scheduled opening in the fall of 2019.
The project will be funded mainly by the state government, which will contribute $34.3 million, while the city will make up the remaining $10.7 million.
“This was a long process but it was a necessary and appropriate process to go through in order to confirm the appropriate support and funding for a state-of-the-art school,” Clark said. “Given the scrutiny at the local and state level, we are proud of the positive and fact-based approach that was taken and are looking forward to the new school building and the deepened and powerful relationship with SCSU, which we… believe will become a model for educational institutions in the state and beyond.”
The school will be 64,000 square feet spread across three stories and will serve 490 students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.
Barack Obama could not be reached for comment.