Thea Digiammerino

Groundbreaking Held For New Haven School Named After President Obama

New Haven Public Schools, elected officials and Southern Connecticut State University held a groundbreaking for the new Barack H. Obama Magnet University School Thursday morning.

This will be the first school in New England to be named in honor of President Obama. It is being built on the Southern Connecticut State University campus.

"He’s not serving as president currently now, but we know he had a commitment to urban education and we will continue on with his commitment,” New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol Birks said.

When the building opens, nearly 500 students from pre-K through 4th grade will attend the elementary school replacing the Strong 21st Century Communications School on Orchard Street.

“This school will embody the audacity of hope," Mayor Toni Harp (D - New Haven) said during the ceremony, quoting the former president.

The total cost of the project is $45 million. The New Haven Board of Alders approved $10.7 million in bonding and the rest of the funding is coming from the state.

“It shows that there is a commitment to early education,” Strong's principal Susan DeNicola said.

“Many years we worked on this to get the approvals to move these kids to the state of the art facility and the dream to be on university campus,” NHPS Chief Operating Officer Will Clark said.

Opening up on Southern's campus will enable education students to gain invaluable in-class experience.

"The opportunity to have young teachers, they bring ideas to us older teachers, we can teach them,” said Gina Algilani, a reading specialist at the Strong school.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Southern's President Joe Bertolini made a big promise to the students in attendance.

“If you do well and you do come to Southern Connecticut State University, each one of you, we’ll get your names, will receive a $1,000 scholarship," he said, followed by cheers from the crowd.

"I hope he wasn’t kidding about the scholarships because we’re gonna hold him to that,” DeNicola said.

The goal is for construction of the 64,000-square foot, three-story school building to be finished in time to open in fall 2019.

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