Posted Date: 08/26/2022
Norwalk Public Schools Celebrates the Grand Opening of the Newly Renovated Jefferson Marine Science Elementary School
In a preview of what’s to come for Norwalk Public Schools and its school construction projects, the district and the city of Norwalk unveiled the newly renovated Jefferson Marine Science Elementary School on Thursday.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alexandra Estrella and Principal Cesar Nina celebrated the grand reopening of the school alongside Mayor Harry Rilling, State Sen. Majority Leader Bob Duff, Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Thomas McBryde Jr., Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Sandra Faioes, and Norwalk Common Council members Barbara Smyth and Dominique Johnson.
“We’re really excited that our students will come to a learning environment that suits them and is equipped with what we need to make sure that they’re future ready,” said Dr. Alexandra Estrella, Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools. “Like I always say, it takes a village. Thank you, Mayor Rilling. Thank you, Senator Duff. Thank you, members of the Common Council as well as all of the different agencies throughout the city that made this possible.”
Jefferson students and staff will return to their home building this fall after spending the 2021-2022 school year in the Lower Campus at Ponus Ridge Middle School.
The completely renovated school features a remodeled gymnasium, a new two-in-one cafeteria and auditorium, a large library media center, and two age-appropriate playgrounds outside. The main office has been relocated to the first floor, right inside the building’s main entrance. Buses will now circle through the upper level of the facility while families pick up and drop off their kids in a loop by the main entrance.
The celebration served as a kickoff for a 25-year, $500 million school construction plan that includes the recent groundbreaking of the new Cranbury Elementary School, a new building for Norwalk High School and P-TECH Norwalk, and the return of a neighborhood school in South Norwalk after more than 40 years.
“We’ve invested tremendous amounts of money in our school infrastructure because we know we have to give our young children, our students, a good place that they can go and learn in comfort and develop to their fullest potential. It’s also important that we give teachers a nice building where they can go and teach,” Rilling said.
Plans to renovate Jefferson have been on the books for more than a decade, according to Sen. Duff. The building was last renovated in 1978 following a fire that burned down most of the school at the time, an incident that Mayor Rilling, who was attending Jefferson at that time, swears he had nothing to do with it.
“Then we built the school that you see now. But now you see a school that was totally renovated. If you saw what was here before and compared it to what is here now, you’ll be absolutely amazed,” Rilling said.
State Sen. Duff certainly was when he received a personal tour from Estrella and Faioes earlier this month. The senator served as a substitute teacher at Jefferson shortly after graduating college. Even at that time, Duff knew the school needed some major fixes.
“This is what we need to be doing in our urban communities where we have a growing school district. We have to invest in these communities. We have great teachers. We have great administrators. We need to make sure we have great buildings to serve these excellent students and our scholars that we have each and every day so that they are prepared for life after they graduate from Norwalk Public Schools,” Duff said.
Councilwoman Barbara Smyth remembered hearing about the urgent needs at Jefferson Elementary when she first started teaching in the Norwalk school district at Ponus Ridge Middle School. Not until recently had she seen such an investment in the city’s public schools
“I’d heard, really for the first time, about all of the portables in the back and I started driving by, thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what a need to improve this school,’” Smyth said about her early encounters with Jefferson. “Mayor Rilling, thank you so much, as a former teacher, you have committed to our children just the buildings, committing funds to education, this is really just the beginning.”