Bas­sick High School rein­ven­tion un­der­way

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - News - By Linda Con­ner Lam­beck

BRIDGE­PORT — The wheels have been put in mo­tion for a new Bas­sick High School.

Not just a much- needed new build­ing to re­place the leaky one built as a ju­nior high in 1929 on Fairfield Av­enue, but a whole new school with a new fo­cus as an Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing Ca­reer High School.

Some say the Bas­sick they en­vi­sion can be an eco­nomic driver for the city and the state.

“We have a real op­por­tu­nity,” state Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D- Bridge­port, said in help­ing to pitch the plan Thurs­day to a re­cep­tive school board.

The out­line of a new cur­ricu­lum with sev­eral ca­reer path­ways but fo­cused largely on ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing, re­ceived unan­i­mous sup­port by the city school board. The nine- mem­ber panel au­tho­rized let­ters of sup­port that Stafstrom can carry with him to Hart­ford from the board, schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Aresta John­son and the school lead­er­ship.

“We need to get be­hind this and sell this,” Stafstrom said. “This gives us the best chance to get bumped up that ( school con­struc­tion project) list.”

The re­quest would be made in the leg­isla­tive ses­sion that starts next Jan­uary. The cost of the plan is not yet known.

While Hart­ford has in­surance, New Haven has Yale and Stam­ford has fi­nan­cial ser­vices, Stafstrom said Bridge­port should re­turn to its roots as an in­dus­trial pow­er­house to use Bridge­port res­i­dents to help fill some of the 15,000 ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs that go va­cant.

The plan pro­poses to send 396 Bas­sick stu­dents through an ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing or au­to­mo­tive path­way at any one time once the new cur­ricu­lum is fully up and run­ning. Smaller path­ways would be es­tab­lished for health ca­reers, con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy and culi­nary arts.

A high school of roughly 1,000 stu­dents on the West side of town, Bas­sick has long suf­fered from low test scores, high dropout rates and a re­volv­ing door of prin­ci­pals. At­ten­dance is a big is­sue.

Bas­sick Prin­ci­pal By­ron Wil­liams sees the new plan as a way to mo­ti­vate stu­dents, ex­pand their hori­zons and make them ca­reer, if not col­lege, ready.

“Bas­sick is the last piece of the puzzle,” Wil­liams said. “Ev­ery other high school has had a unique op­por­tu­nity to be new again.”

Cen­tral High School was just re­mod­eled and ex­panded. Hard­ing is open­ing a new build­ing in the fall. Fairchild Wheeler opened less than five years ago and the Bridge­port Mil­i­tary Academy took over the dis­trict’s fairly new swing space school three years ago.

Wil­liams was made Bas­sick prin­ci­pal last sum­mer, just as the school was in the midst of try­ing to once again rein­vent it­self.

De­spite its dif­fi­cul­ties, the school has had some suc­cess over the past cou­ple years by send­ing a small num­ber of stu­dents through Housatonic’s Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­gram and oth­ers to St. Vin­cent’s Col­lege to take col­lege- level med­i­cal cour­ses. There is a pro­gram for stu­dents in Bas­sick’s au­to­mo­tive shop to grad­u­ate into Gate­way Col­lege in New Haven. And 13 stu­dents are en­rolled in a culi­nary arts train­ing pro­gram.

Bas­sick also now has stu­dents who en­ter it through Clay­tor Mag­net Academy, a STEAM school, so some stu­dents come with early ex­po­sure to sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, art and math.

Stafstrom said he has been work­ing for nearly two years with Joe Larcheveque, a former school board mem­ber and chair, to ad­vance and ex­pand the cur­rent part­ner­ships but said the over­ar­ch­ing fo­cus needs to be on ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing.

He wants to ap­proach lo­cal in­dus­tries like Siko­rsky about fund­ing labs and higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions like the Uni­ver­sity of Bridge­port — one of the largest pro­duc­ers of engi­neers in New Eng­land — to pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance.

Robert Tre­fry, chair­man of the board of the state’s tech­ni­cal high school system and a former Bridge­port school board chair, said he does not mind Bas­sick of­fer­ing ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing which is one of the many pro­grams of­fered at Bullard Havens.

“The more trained in­di­vid­u­als the bet­ter for the Con­necti­cut work­force,” Tre­fry said.

Larcheveque said the idea is not to du­pli­cate what the state’s tech­ni­cal high schools do, but to ful­fill a need that is sim­ply not be­ing sat­is­fied and whet the ap­petite of law­mak­ers to fund an­other new school con­struc­tion project in the city.

“We are go­ing to put forth a plan to re­ally boldly raise Bas­sick to new level with a new fa­cil­ity and a new direction,” Larcheveque said.

Cathy Zu­raw / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

By­ron Wil­liams, prin­ci­pal at Bas­sick High School, in his of­fice at the school in Bridge­port last year.

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