HAMDEN – Sacred Heart Academy entered a new chapter in its history with a formal groundbreaking ceremony for a new school center on the academy's Benham Street campus on June 1.
The new school center was designed by David Thompson Architects, a New Haven- based architectural firm with extensive experience serving educational and religious communities throughout the region. Architect David Thompson believes that this new project represents a special opportunity for Sacred Heart.
“Sacred Heart has built a stellar reputation for quality secondary education. The construction of the new space will be enormously important in projecting the school’s identity, linking its programs and activities into a more tightly integrated physical plant,” he said.Thompson also noted the critical participation of the Sacred Heart community in shaping the design for the new school center.
Completion of the 7,250-square-foot space is scheduled for the start of the 2019 fall semester.
In line with the challenges and pace of 21st-century learning, the new school center will be constructed in front of the existing building, connecting the Philip Paolella, Jr. Recreational Center and the original main entrance.
The new wing - an educational, social, and cultural center – will also offer improved accessibility for those with physical challenges. The space includes a new student commons and art gallery for exhibiting student and visiting artist’s works.
Visitors will now enter the school from ground level in full view of the relocated main office.
“We love having visitors,” said Sister Sheila O’Neill, '71, president, “and we want them to feel welcome. The new configuration will be a central hub for the school while providing enhanced safety and security.”
The president’s office, principal’s office, and offices for admissions and alumnae affairs will be situated near the main office and conference rooms will provide convenient meeting space for alumnae, academic departments, the Advisory Council,and Mothers’ and Fathers’ clubs, among other groups.
Relocated offices will free up rooms for use by faculty to meet with students and parents, and for student clubs and activities; such meeting spaces are currently in short supply.
The academy embarked on Ever Higher – The Campaign for Sacred Heart Academy, to raise funds for the $5 million school center in 2016. The new school center represents Phase I of the school’s 10-year master plan, spearheaded by Sister Sheila and approved by the Board of Directors and Advisory Council of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2015.
Phases II and III, even more ambitious and far-reaching, include expanding the cafeteria by flipping its orientation from horizontal to vertical to create new space for fine arts and a spacious atrium for large gatherings and concerts.
On the long-range drawing board (Phase III) is a new building that would house a larger student commons, a faculty commons and a theater. This phase also would benefit the sports program as former classrooms will be repurposed for athletics.
The construction company for the new school center is FIP of Farmington, a firm with extensive experience in serving educational institutions.
Speakers at the groundbreaking and preceding liturgy included Sister Sheila; Karen Harris of Wallingford, chair of the Advisory Council, and Sister Ritamary Schultz, provincial superior of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Michael Dolan, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden, provided the blessing. Others attendees included Michael S. Griffin, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Hartford; the campaign cabinet and committe; members of the Advistory Council; students; faculty and alumnae.
Sacred Heart Academy, an independent college preparatory for young women in grades nine through 12, was founded in 1946 by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.