Gateway Community College’s empty halls on Long Wharf came to life Monday as public school teachers scrambled to move into the science labs and spacious classrooms the college left behind when it moved downtown.
Melissa and Bob Rhone (pictured above) spent their day off Monday shlepping boxes around the second floor of Gateway’s former campus, a 150,000-square-foot, state-owned building at 60 Sargent Drive. Hyde School of Health Sciences and Sports Medicine, a small magnet high school serving 200 students, took advantage of a long weekend of Jewish holidays to make a mid-year switch from a Hamden swing space to a new, temporary home.
Hyde has been housed at a Hamden parochial school for the past 19 years, according to Principal John Russell. Students move in Wednesday to the former Gateway campus. The school had to move because it was failing to meet the requirements of its federal magnet grant, Russell said. It didn’t have the infrastructure or equipment to offer its promised new curriculum focused on health sciences and sports medicine.
Hyde ended up at Long Wharf after an earlier proposal, by which it would have shared space with James Hillhouse High School, met with public outcry. Hyde will occupy most of the second story of Gateway’s campus, sharing space with the Gateway Technical Institute (GTI), a new vocational-technical program that’s set to open next year. Click here to read about the breakthrough arrangement, first reported in the Independent last month.
The new space will allow Hyde to beef up its science curriculum and put students in a college environment, where they will eventually be able to take college-level courses through the vo-tech program. GTI Principal Steve Pynn plans to launch the school next year as an extended-hours program serving kids at five high schools. The program does plan to launch some pilot classes this year—click here to read more about the program.
Russell said the collaboration will open doors for students.
“They can practice college in a college setting,” he said.
As teachers unpacked books and tracked down missing white boards for their classrooms, Russell led a tour of his new space Monday afternoon.
First, he had to grab a map.
He opened the door to room filled with 50 computers, desks and chairs. The school gets to use several computer labs with over 100 computers as part of its lease. They’re already set up and ready to go.
That’s a big change from Hyde’s former home, Russell said. “We had computers, but I would never refer to it as a lab.”
The new building has bigger classrooms, working air-conditioning, and no leaking water, Russel said. “We’re as happy as we can be.”
Hyde will be using three science labs, equipped with burners, fume hoods and sinks. At the old space, a former Catholic junior high school at 306 Circular Ave. in Hamden, science teachers just had “our books and the rooms.”
On the first floor, Hyde has set up two fitness rooms.
Gateway’s expansive library is currently being used for storage.
Once the chairs and boxes are cleared out, Pynn (at right in photo) sees it as a hub for a modern library offering virtual learning and credit retrieval programs.
Students will use the college’s cafeteria, too, said Sue Weisselberg (pictured), the school system’s longtime school construction czar who now focuses on social services.
“The menu will change,” however, Weisselberg pointed out.
Behind the cafeteria, Pynn revealed one of the greatest assets of the site—a fully stocked kitchen with industrial-sized cooking equipment, including pizza ovens and giant mixers. Pynn said the site is a perfect spot for Wilbur Cross High School’s culinary program, and for entrepreneurs starting out in the food production business. Under his vision, the campus will serve as a job training and business incubation site as well as a “middle college” program where high school students can earn high school and college credits.
Hyde plans to occupy the Gateway site until the city builds a new home for the school, Weisselberg said. The school system recently went back to the drawing board in search of new sites and has not issued any new proposals, so any move would be years away.
Meanwhile, some of Hyde’s 22 teachers set to work Monday sprucing up windowless rooms with posters, books and artwork.
Melissa Rhone, who teaches at Brennan/Rogers School, spent her day off Monday helping her husband, Bob, move into his new social studies classroom. The pair lifted boxes, shifted tables, and wheeled a cart of binders across the room.
“Hey you, get busy,” read one sign on the classroom wall.
Melissa Rhone said she volunteered her services when she found out her husband had to spend his day off moving boxes.
“Maybe he’ll take me out to dinner tonight,” she said.