City School Board wants a new Bassick that pays homage to 1929 design
BRIDGEPORT — Count a majority of the city school board in. They want a brand new Bassick High School too.
After a rare Friday evening public hearing, the school board voted 7-2, to approve a lengthy resolution that essentially tells the city school construction committee and State’s Office of School Construction it prefers and endorses a new Bassick.
It also asks, if possible that the Beau Arts design elements from the original Bassick facade be incorporated into the new structure, as long as the classroom design, finishes, furniture, fixtures, equipment and technology are modern.
Board Chairman John Weldon, along with member Hernan Illingworth, Jessica Martinez, Joe Sokolovic, Sybil Allen, Dennis Bradley and Chris Taylor voted in favor of the motion. Maria Pereira and Ben Walker voted no.
Pereira has led the charge to preserve the 1929 wing of the school that was designed by architect Ernest G. Southey on land donated to the city by the family of industrialist Edmund Chase Bassick. Pereira has been in touch with the families of both.
“The Bassick vote was a tragedy for a variety of reasons,” Pereira later said. “Those that spoke on behalf of the demolition of the historic and architecturally significant original Bassick (High School) building came from individuals that likely could not spell architecture. Meanwhile, historians, architects, preservationists, and both staff/student alumni articulated sound reasoning for its preservation.”
Pereira also criticized Taylor, who during the hearing suggested the Bassick family had been involved in the slave trade.
“Bassick never did anything for the people that are in this building now,” Taylor said during the meeting on Friday. When he said he would support nothing but a new building, cheers erupted from the audience.
“I am communicating with E. Webb Bassick on next steps,” Pereira said, of the oldest known survivor of the Bassick family.
Weldon said motion wasn’t “either or,” because ultimately the decision is not made by the board. He said everyone’s opinions would be sent to the state.
“If they overrule us, they overrule us,” Weldon said.
The vote came after the board heard from 18 speakers on both side of the issue, including students who carried signs in support of a brand new Bassick and those who want to preserve the historic nature of the structure.
Bassick is the last of the city’s comprehensive high schools to be replaced. The plan was to spend up to $115 million. Depending on the option selected, the state could pay between 69 and 79 percent.
Until recently, officials had been planning on a building large enough to accommodate 1,050 students. A just completed enrollment study by Cooperative Strategies of Ohio, however, found the maximum enrollment projection by the 2023-24 school year will be 911. The calculation took into account birth rates, census data, building permits and historical enrollment data.
Since 2014-15, public school enrollment in the district has declined by 747 students. Bridgeport now has several specialty high schools in addition to its three comprehensives, as well as private schools, charter schools and a technical high school.