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