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New School Could Be 'Safe Haven' For One Bridgeport Neighborhood

State Rep. Steve Stafstrom, state Sen. Marilyn Moore, City Council member Scott Burns and Alan Wallack, Bridgeport school construction coordinator, tour the new Geraldine Clayton Magnet Academy. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The Fighting Hawk logo adorns the floor of the new gym at Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
State Sen. Marilyn Moore and state Rep. Steve Stafstrom tour the science preparation lab at Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The new kitchen sparkles at Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
STEAM -- science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics -- will be the focus at Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Local and state lawmakers got a sneak peek Friday at the much-anticipated Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy in Bridgeport, a new K-8 school they say may soon become a hub of the West End.

The school, which will focus on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — or STEAM — includes a health suite, large airy band and choral rehearsal space, an art room with a kiln and modern science labs.

“This would make a kid want to come to school in the morning,” said state Sen. Marilyn Moore, looking around at the bright green-and-blue chairs and accessories.

Claytor Academy, home to the fighting Hawks, is scheduled to open after winter break in January, said City Council member Scott Burns.

The $51 million school, which replaces 50-plus-year-old Longfellow School on Ocean Terrace, has been about four years in the making. It will be home to up to 550 Bridgeport students, with the majority coming from the West End and Black Rock neighborhoods.

Those who attended Longfellow will be given first preference. Those students have been learning at Columbus and Black Rock schools since Longfellow closed and was demolished, said Alan Wallack, Bridgeport’s school construction coordinator.

Bridgeport-based architectural firm Fletcher Thompson designed the new building with an eye toward spacious, airy learning areas and security. Visitors must check in with a security office in a vestibule before they will be allowed into the school.

There are 80 to 90 security cameras both inside and outside the school, which is across the street from the P.T. Barnum public housing complex and a Stop & Shop and near the Cal Ripken Jr. baseball field.

City officials encouraged parent involvement in decision-making about the school, Wallack said. Parents picked out the color scheme and met with the architects and Bismarck Construction, the construction managers.

Last year, Moore and state Rep. Steve Stafstrom, who also joined the tour, secured an additional $1.5 million in state funding to pay for school furnishings and accessories.

Stafstrom said he hopes the parents will continue to be involved and that the school will be a year-round asset to the neighborhood, as both a school and a place for after-school activities and community meetings.

The school will provide an extended day for working parents, breakfast and lunch, and students in the Lighthouse program may also receive dinner, Wallack said.

“This is going to make such a difference for this neighborhood,” Stafstrom said.

Moore agreed, saying Claytor could become a second home for families.

“You don’t just put (a school) in and walk away,” she said. “Let’s make the most out of it. This could be a safe haven for people.”

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