The Courant: Brand-New Discovery Academy Magnet School Opens in Wethersfield
Regional Cooperation Better Than Competition
September 3, 2015
© Hartford Courant
WETHERSFIELD — After years of waiting and dreaming, students and staff of the Discovery Academy regional magnet school moved into their new state-of-the-art building Wednesday.
“We are excited to be in our permanent home,” said Principal Lynn Toper, standing in the new school’s sun-splashed atrium. “A lot of our families have been waiting for four years for this and looking at drawings. This is beyond their expectation.”
The academy, one of 19 interdistrict magnet schools operated by the Capitol Region Education Council, focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM. For its first four years, the elementary school was crammed into two locations on Franklin and Huyshope avenues in Hartford and lacked basic facilities such as art and music rooms, Toper said.
The new, three-story school at 176 Cumberland Ave., built on the site of a disused Northeast Utilities building, has those facilities, plus much more. Its futuristic design includes green and silver panels arranged in patterns on the building’s sides and an artful rain roof leading to the bus dropoff. The facility is surrounded by freshly landscaped open spaces, including a soccer field and nature trails, and a playscape is planned.
The facility is energy-efficient and sustainable. It will eventually feature a roof garden and solar arrays, which will provide about 30 percent of its electricity, Toper said. Each pre-kindergarten room opens into an area with planting beds and a rain barrel to allow pupils to grow flowers and vegetables.
In addition, the new 72,000-square-foot school includes science and robotics labs to help fulfill its STEM mission, and a combination gym and cafeteria.
“As a STEM school, we now have the opportunity to explore along our nature trails, plant in our rooftop gardens, and engage in larger-scale robotics and engineering projects in connection with our theme and community partners,” Toper said. “It is simply an inspiring place to be.”
Michael and Casey Shea of Plainville were among the many excited parents to drop off their child for the school’s opening day Wednesday. The Sheas were so impressed by the school that they transferred their daughter Ella, who is entering first grade, from the Plainville schools. Both said they liked the academy’s focus on technology and science and its “inquiry-based” approach to learning.
“The way they present knowledge and information is so creative,” Michael Shea said.
Justin and Felicia Torres of Hartford, whose son, Justin Jr,. is entering fourth grade, also said they were impressed by the new facility. They believe it is a better place for their son than the Hartford public schools.
“The school is absolutely beautiful,” Felicia Torres said. “Everything is state of the art. They have brand-new books, brand-new everything.”
The school will have about 405 students in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade this year, officials said. It will add fifth grade next year, bringing it to capacity.
The academy cost $44 million, paid by the state, and took nearly two years to build. CREC also opened a new facility in Windsor for its Academy of Aerospace & Engineering this week.
CREC schools seek to reduce the racial and economic isolation of the Hartford Schools in response to the Sheff vs. O’Neill desegregation court decision.