Breaking down borders

Historic magnet school opens in Bridgeport


Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch welcomes students from the entire area to the Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet High School campus on Monday, Aug. 19. (John Kovach

Officials from as far away as Washington, D.C., and Hartford gathered with some 500 area residents in Bridgeport to celebrate the opening of the first new high school in the city in a half century.

Those responsible for construction of the Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School campus hope the facility, built by several towns and facilitated by a land swap, breaks as many borders through education.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were among those welcomed by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch to a ribbon cutting, which opened floodgates as students about to join the first classes at the new school saw their new classrooms for the first time, with classes set to commence at the end of August.

“The opening of Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus represents a transitional moment for Bridgeport and for the entire country,” Finch said. “We have gone from three high schools in Bridgeport to seven, thanks to the opening of this new campus. This school will provide unprecedented curriculum in fields that are critical to the future of our nation. We need more engineers; we need more information technology and we need more scientists fighting climate change.”

The Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus is set to welcome its first two classes of students at the end of August.

Construction took months of negotiations involving building on parkland in Trumbull. Malloy and the state legislature reached an agreement to redraw boundaries and make the school part of Bridgeport.

Even if that had not happened, Finch said, Bridgeport firefighters and police said they would cover the facility so Bridgeport children could attend the school.

Of the 750 students in grades 9-10 who will attend the school, 70% will come from Bridgeport, the remaining 30% spread among Trumbull, Fairfield, Shelton, Stratford, the Easton/Redding district, Monroe and Milford.

The school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project-based curriculum focuses on three areas: Information technology, biotechnology/zoological science and physical science, math and aerospace/hydrospace engineering. Partnerships with the three area universities will provide significant opportunities for students to acquire college credits.

The new $126 million state-of-the-art school, which Finch said is the largest and most ambitious school infrastructure project in Connecticut history, was also called the most environmentally friendly school in the state.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council., the building will get close to 120 kilowatts of electricity from 10 wind turbines and solar panels. It has a green roof design and its construction includes eco-friendly building materials with energy-efficient mechanical systems.

All of the features will play a role in the education inside the school, Pryor said.

The completed landscaping will use native vegetation and 76% of the site will be maintained as open space, according to a press release.

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