Classical Studies rally for a single building
BRIDGEPORT — Shouting “One School, One Building” in the frigid morning air, some 100 Classical Studies Magnet Academy children and their parents rallied Saturday outside the Catholic Center on Jewett Avenue.
The effort, which was held with the blessing of the Diocese of Bridgeport, was staged to put pressure on the City Council to allow the building — a former Catholic high school — to be bought and used as a new home for the public magnet school.
“My heart is set on this building,” Classical Principal Helen Giles said, as parents and students hoisted handmade signs. “We want the City Council to vote yes so we can go to the state and petition for money.”
The City Council voted 14-6 last year to block the purchase, largely at the urging of Michelle Lyons, a city council member who lives near the Catholic Center. She opposed the plan, insisting the building does not have enough parking and is too close to a methadone clinic and liquor store.
Students and parents who attend the school say there are not alternatives and that they are not taking no for an answer.
The Pre-K through 8th grade school of 407 students is currently split between two buildings, one a 123-year-old structure on Lindwood Avenue and the other, a former Catholic school that is several blocks away on Beechwood Avenue.
“We need one building for our scholars,” said Giles. “Parking for staff and a safe playground. They are trying to sell this building. Why shouldn’t it be a school? This is what it was built to be.”
The building actually was built as a hospital for infectious disease in 1919 and became a Catholic school for girls in the 1960’s. It now serves as headquarters for the Diocese.
Lorie Gumbs-Tyler, president of the school’s Parent Advisory Committee, said the council needs to understand that because Classical is a magnet school, has students from all parts of the city.
“We are here not to cause a ruckus but to highlight in a positive manner the wonderful people who attend our school.” Gumbs-Tyler said. “We are committed and we are serious.”
Jaysa Mellers, a seventh-grader at the school, said she believes the rally will make a difference.
“We are a team and we are not going down without a fight,” Mellers, 12, said.
The demonstration also drew School Board Member Jessica Martinez who told parents the city council needs to know the school is united on the issue.
The parents plan to do just that by speaking at the Feb. 5 City Council meeting.
Also at the rally was State Rep. Chris Rosario, D-Bridgeport, who has sent two children to Classical. One was in the main building, the other in the annex.
Parents shouldn’t have to chose which assembly to go to, Rosario said.
The North End neighborhood where the Catholic Center is located, needs to know, Rosario added, that Classical Studies would be a great neighbor.
“They should be welcome anywhere in the city,” Rosario said, adding that he also knows and respects Lyons.
“She is an excellent councilwoman,” he said. “We are just on opposite sides on this issue.”