Construction on new Grasso Technical High School to begin next year

An artist's rendering of proposed plans for a new technical high school on the site of Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton. (Courtesy of  Richard Brown of MPH Architecture)
An artist's rendering of proposed plans for a new technical high school on the site of Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton. (Courtesy of Richard Brown of MPH Architecture)

Groton — The state is moving forward with plans to build a $134.9 million school to replace Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, with construction beginning in June 2017.

The school will be specifically equipped to train future Electric Boat employees, said Seth Duke, corporate marketing and communications manager for Torrington-based O&G Industries, which was awarded the construction contract for the school. 

The program is state-funded through bonds, not paid for by the town.

Grasso Tech collaborated with Electric Boat, Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods Resort Casino, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board and consultants from the Connecticut Technical High School System home office to determine what trades to offer in the new building, Principal Patricia Feeney said.

“The decisions were made specifically to meet the needs of the area,” she said.

The school now houses a training program for adults intended to produce skilled workers for the region's advanced manufacturing sector, including Electric Boat.

But after the new school is built, welding will become a trade also offered to Grasso students, Feeney said.

“There’s a huge need in this area,” she said. “Electric Boat is in need of welders as are other businesses, and really there isn’t much in this area in the way of training.”

In 2030, EB expects to have 18,000 employees turning out both advanced nuclear attack submarines and a new class of ballistic missile submarines.

More than 90 percent of that growth will be in the shipyard trades, such as welding, pipefitting and sheet metal work.

The new school also will combine culinary arts and hospitality into a new trade called “Hospitality management, culinary and tourism,” Feeney said.

The combined trade is modeled after university programs that allow students to choose from among various specialties, she said, explaining “It opens up more opportunities.”

Other trades that will continue to be offered in the new school include automotive technology, automotive collision repair and refinishing, bioscience and environmental technology, hairdressing and cosmetology, electrical, information systems technology, plumbing and heating and drafting and computer-aided design.

Masonry and digital media also may be added as trades in the future, Feeney said.

The new school will accommodate up to 800 students and is scheduled to open for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Grasso Tech enrolls about 500 students now.

Feeney said she’s notified parents and students about the upcoming construction.

Larry Fritch, an instructor for 14 years, said faculty and students are excited about the new building.

“It seems like it will have a lot more glass and a lot more natural lighting. Our school was built in the 1970s and it’s pretty much windowless,” he said, adding, “It’s time to be refreshed.”

The 218,000-square-foot school will be built northwest of the existing school, in the area where the lower parking lot is now. The existing school would be demolished in the fall or winter of 2019, Duke said.

“The new building’s proximity to the existing building is a challenge as we have to maintain services to the existing school building,” Duke wrote in an email about the construction. “The site is a complicated one to build on considering all of the re-grading and subsurface work on the site.”

The existing trade school was completed and opened in 1977.

d.straszheim@theday.com

An artist's rendering of proposed plans for a new technical high school on the site of Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton. (Courtesy of  Richard Brown of MPH Architecture)
An artist's rendering of proposed plans for a new technical high school on the site of Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton. (Courtesy of Richard Brown of MPH Architecture)

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