Bridgeport Military Academy to share building with Bassick on University of Bridgeport campus

Photo of Cayla Bamberger

BRIDGEPORT — The school district is planning to integrate Bridgeport Military Academy into the new Bassick High School.

At a school board meeting Monday, Superintendent Michael Testani shared his intention to move Bridgeport Military Academy to the new Bassick High School on the University of Bridgeport’s campus.

Testani clarified that the programs would be housed under the same roof, but the plan does not involve “the dismantlement of the school itself.

“Bridgeport Military Academy will have the opportunity to take advantage of programs that they do not currently have,” said Testani. “They will have the opportunity to participate in athletics, students will have the opportunity to participate in clubs, students will be able to take advantage of programs that are not offered (at BMA), such as auto shop, advanced manufacturing, the other vocational technical programs that are planned for Bassick High School.”

The discussion was part of a broader conversation about revised plans for Bassick, which includes larger enrollment projections to account for more students in the building from Bridgeport Military Academy.

The new Bassick was approved two years ago with a deadline to get a shovel in the ground of July 23. The project will lose state funds if not begun before that date, so the district is getting started on a back-up plan to file for a new grant application by June 30.

Bridgeport Military Academy is already located on the fringe of UB’s campus, making the move an easy one geographically.

“We are talking about moving over across campus, not across town,” said Testani.

Testani explained that the decision was in part the result of conversations with current BMA students, who will likely graduate before the program ever sees a new home in three to five years, he estimated. If the district has to reapply, it doesn’t expect approval for a new grant until February.

“When I’ve held round table discussions with students at the Military Academy,” said Testani, “one of the things that was a common theme was they don’t have a Friday night football game to go to to cheer on classmates. They don’t have a basketball team where they can go and cheer on during the basketball season against a cross-town rival. This provides the entire high school experience, as well as maintaining that individuality that the Bridgeport Military has.”

But the plan came as a surprise to some board members last week, like Albert Benejan, whose niece graduated from the academy.

“How come parents, students and staff from BMA don’t know what’s going on in this situation?” said Benejan, adding that he was “in shock” that he and other board members had not known.

Also a factor in the district’s decision to relocate Bridgeport Military Academy is the school’s enrollment numbers. Last year’s graduating class was about half the size it was when students enrolled in the ninth grade, according to the superintendent.

BMA is an interdistrict school that must adhere to state-mandated shares of Bridgeport and out-of-district students. The school has wait lists of Bridgeport students it cannot accept in order to maintain those proportions.

“That’s what’s frustrating right now,” said Testani, “is that we have (Bridgeport) students who want to go there, that are champing at the bit to go there, and we cannot pull from the waiting list unless more suburban kids enter into the school.”

Other updates for the new Bassick that will now be reflected in a revised written plan include the school’s move onto the UB campus and new programs that prepare young adults for careers as electricians, carpenters and in HVAC.

“There’s going to be no shortage of jobs for kids when they leave Bassick High School with a focus in these areas,” said Testani. “And high paying jobs at that.”

The board passed a motion to approve the revised Bassick plans, with Albert Benejan opposing.