LEARN Breaks Ground on New Academy

LEARN Breaks Ground on New Special Education Center

With a bit of dirt tossed into the air, LEARN officially broke ground on Wednesday on its new special education center on Ocean Avenue.

Construction will now begin on the Ocean Avenue LEARNing Academy, which will soon serve students with complex social, emotional, and physical needs and their families. The building will also serve as the headquarters for Student Support Services (SSS) -- LEARN’s special education division – and its network of experts and educators.

“We’re honored and grateful to be able to be here and we look forward to serving New London and all of our communities,” said SSS Director Bridgette Gordon-Hickey.

On Wednesday, LEARN held a short ceremony at the former Beth El Synagogue on Ocean Avenue. LEARN purchased the building in 2017 with the intention of converting it into a school.

The synagogue was the home of the Solomon Schecter Academy, which has relocated to Waterford. LEARN’s purchase included several classrooms, a gymnasium, and large meeting space. Renovations will further modernize the facility and improve handicapped accessibility, with plans for a new foyer, widened hallways, and elevators among several other improvements.

Tecton Architects is designing the facility and O&G Industries is handling construction. The building is expected to open in November 2018, with approximately 70 students transitioning to the LEARNing Academy by the New Year.

LEARN is the Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) that serves New London and dozens of other communities and public school systems throughout southeastern Connecticut. Cost effective and quality special education services are a major need for all of LEARN’s member districts. In recent years, LEARN has expanded programs and staff, with outplacement programs throughout the shoreline.

The LEARNing Academy will consolidate many of those programs. At capacity, the building should serve 85-100 students in what LEARN Executive Director Dr. Eileen Howley called “a special place for children.”

“That is really the core of what LEARN is about: providing services that school districts can’t do on their own, and to provide it in an affordable way,” Howley said.

While renovations will modernize the building, the design and look of the facility will remain the same. Jack Cross, LEARN’s Development Director and head of the Building Committee for the Academy, has worked closely with the synagogue and the families, understanding the building’s history, legacy, and emotional importance to the congregation’s members.

“This is a pretty special opportunity. We’ve had a really good dialogue with the synagogue and its members and they are pleased with the plans and the learning that will take place here,” Cross said.

Several Ocean Avenue neighbors attended the groundbreaking, along with New London Mayor Michael Passero and Cynthia Ritchie, who was recently hired as the city’s new superintendent of schools.  Howley promised that LEARN would be a good neighbor and a devoted member to the community.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2019 West Corporation. All rights reserved.