Sport and Medical Sciences Academy’s New Building Rising in South Meadows
November 15 - 22, 2006
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Sam Colt will soon be getting a new neighbor. A brand new building for the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy (SMSA) magnet school is currently being built in the shadow of the famous blue onion dome that sits atop the former Colt factory.
Construction at the six-acre site began a few months ago and is expected to be completed in time for the opening of the 2008-2009 school year, if not sooner, said SMSA Principal Eduardo Genao. The total cost to construct the new, three-story building is estimated at $71 million.
SMSA has been located in Downtown Hartford since it first opened in 1996. It was originally housed at the former Bond Hotel and now occupies a five-story building at the southwest corner of Ann and Asylum Streets.
The architect for the new facility is Du Bose Associates, but Genao said SMSA administrators, teachers, parents and even students had input into the final design. For instance, he said, a building committee composed of SMSA staff, parents and others decided to include more sport and medical laboratories in the final design rather than a swimming pool. Students at the new school will be able to use swimming facilities at neighboring schools, such as Bulkeley High School. SMSA students will also be able to use the playing fields at Colt Park, which will be adjacent to the new school. The school itself will contain an indoor gym and other athletic facilities. Currently, students at SMSA’s downtown campus use athletic facilities at the YMCA, YWCA and other sites.
The Building Committee also decided that the 7th and 8th graders should have their own special section of the school rather than mixed in with the upper-classes.
Right now, SMSA has 407 students in grades 9 through 12. When the new facility opens for the 2008-2009 school year, SMSA will have students in grades 7 through 12. Genao said the two new grades should raise the school’s total enrollment to approximately 725 students. As a magnet school, SMSA draws approximately 70 percent of its students from Hartford. The remaining 30 percent comes from 18 surrounding towns, said Melony Brady, SMSA Magnet Theme Coach.
Brady and Genao said one of the key elements in SMSA’s new building is that it is designed in relatively self-contained sections, creating a sense of community and reducing transition time between classes.
Genao said the new school is designed to have a college-type atmosphere and, to that end, each section will be named after top colleges, such as Yale and Harvard, in order to raise student aspirations. “You can’t aspire to work on Wall Street if you’ve never heard of Wall Street,” Genao said, “we’re trying to expose our students to as much as we can.”