Plans for New Engineering, Science School Advance

New Haven plans for school near UNH in West Haven advance
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Courtesy of New Haven Register
 By Abbe Smith, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — The school district is preparing to move forward with plans to build a new Engineering and Science University Magnet School in West Haven thanks to a new lease on a site near the University of New Haven.

The Board of Education recently approved four lease-to-own contracts and agreed to pay a total of $41,000 by the end of the year to secure the space until the end of June 2012. Together, the four sites amount to about 3 acres and are about 1,300 yards from UNH, which will play an integral role in the new school. The biggest parcel is the former Sleepy Hollow Bowling Center, which is now owned by Rock Tabernacle Ministries and would have to be torn down to make way for the school.

Schools Chief Operating Officer William Clark said the approved leases allow the district to move forward on the $66 million project, which if construction begins in the summer could be open by fall 2014.

“Our goal is to get in there as soon as we can,” he said.

In addition to Rock Tabernacle Ministries, the sites under lease are owned by two other, separate entities: CBS Outdoor LLC and Rachel Real Estate LLC of Port Chester, N.Y.

The newly leased properties were not the original, preferred site for the new school. New Haven had its sights on a location adjacent to the campus, but was unable to secure purchase agreements for the properties. New Haven eventually abandoned the plan when it became evident that West Haven was hesitant to use “eminent domain” to take land for the new school, which as a magnet would also accept students from West Haven and other municipalities. But Clark said the new site is workable.

“It wasn’t our preferred site, but UNH does have a shuttle service that can be utilized for some of their exterior parking lots,” he said. However, even with the new lease in place, Clark said the district would still be open to the original preferred site, if it became available.

“If the preferred site became available, it remains an option,” Clark said.

West Haven Mayor John Picard this week said his preference is also for the original site, because of its proximity to UNH, but the school could work at the new location as well.

“I think that’s the natural fit,” he said of the site closer to UNH. “We all would agree to have it on the main campus is ideal and I am still hopeful that it will happen.”

Picard declined to discuss if any discussions were taking place regarding the original location.

ESUMS has about 320 students in grades 6-9. The school added a ninth grade this year and the goal is to gradually expand the school to include grades 6-12. Over the summer, the district introduced a plan to move the school from its temporary site at St. Stanislaus School on State Street to a slightly larger space at 540-560 Ella T. Grasso Blvd. However, parental opposition prompted the district to keep the current location for students in grades 6-8. Ninth-graders attend class at rented space on Leeder Hill Drive in Hamden.