New Marine Science high school launches in Groton

Dr. Nicholas Spera, director of the Marine Science Magnet High School, welcomes students Thursday in the great room of the school on the first day of classes.
Dr. Nicholas Spera, director of the Marine Science Magnet High School, welcomes students Thursday in the great room of the school on the first day of classes.

Groton - "This is going to be a safe, fun environment. We have fish."

That's what School Director Nicholas Spera told the more than 100 first-year students at the Marine Science Magnet High School on Shennecossett Road Thursday morning.

About 80 freshmen and 24 sophomores from 24 eastern Connecticut towns sat wide eyed and anxious beneath lights with "sails" for shades and the high ceiling of the school's Great Hall, listening to Spera's welcome address.

"You're the first students ever in the Marine Science Magnet High School," he said. "That can't ever happen again. Congratulations."

Landscaping, painting and other last-minute details were being tended to just after 7:30 Thursday morning when the classes of 2014 and 2015 arrived. The MSMHS is operated under the authority of LEARN, the Old Lyme based regional education service center. The school will focus on preparing students for marine-related employment and higher education.

"I'm a little nervous," said Samuel Maldonado, a 13-year-old freshman. "I think I'm going to like it. I live near Bluff Point (Coastal Reserve). I've always been interested in marine science."

Eric Litvinoff, 24, was as excited as the students. He was starting his first full-time teaching job in a new building, with new students, new co-workers and a new curriculum.

"It's a great school, a great staff," the aquaculture teacher said. "I've met some of the students. It's exciting. I'm loving it."

Michelle Scarlett of East Lyme delivered her 14-year-old son Kenan to the school.

"I love the design of the building, the way they take advantage of the natural light," she said. "And because it's new, some of the classes will have a very small student to teacher ratio, like 7-1."

She said she was impressed by the school's aquaculture and marine science laboratories.

Spera pointed out tanks in the labs, touting their capabilities. "We can simulate any body of water in the world," he said. "The Thames River or the coastal waters off Jamaica. And it's all handicap accessible."

The students, who will each be assigned a laptop computer, will split their time between "land" days in the classroom, and "sea" days, when they will work either in the marine science labs or on a sailing vessel with Project Oceanography.

Annalise Rois, 15, from Mystic said the school was a good fit for her career hopes.

"I really like marine science, so it's a good opportunity," she said. "I want to be scientist or a biologist."

While most of the students are happy to be there, Haley Fogg's enthusiasm was unmatched. Fogg, a 15-year-old from Ledyard, is Sea Scout. She and Rois had met earlier in the summer on a voyage on the Half-Moon, a full-scale, operating replica of the Dutch exploration ship that Henry Hudson sailed in 1609.

"I love the ocean. I just want to be in it, on it," she said with a smile and a laugh. "The aquaculture lab is so awesome. I love this school."

c.potter@theday.com

Brittany Hernandez, ninth grade, and her fellow students applaud as their teachers are introduced to the student body Thursday during the first day of school at the new Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton.
Brittany Hernandez, ninth grade, and her fellow students applaud as their teachers are introduced to the student body Thursday during the first day of school at the new Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton.
Students and faculty enter the new Marine Science Magnet High School Thursday.
Students and faculty enter the new Marine Science Magnet High School Thursday.

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