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Common Ground Broken

Common Ground Broken

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Published by Kendra Baker
Common Ground High School took a $10 million step forward Tuesday—while vowing to maintain its sense of family.
Common Ground High School took a $10 million step forward Tuesday—while vowing to maintain its sense of family.

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Published by: Kendra Baker on Nov 28, 2013
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Kendra Baker 
 | OCT 15, 2013 5:23 PM
Common Ground HighSchool took a $10 millionstep forward Tuesday—while vowing to maintainits sense of family. Around 70 people—over half of them CommonGround High Schoolstudents—gathered near the school’s organicgarden for agroundbreaking on a new$10.2 million, 13,000-square-foot solar-heatedand geothermal-cooledbuilding complete withnew science labs,performance space, andart classrooms.Common Ground is home to the nation’s oldest environmental charter high school, an environmentalcenter, and an urban farm that contributes over 35,000 servings of healthful, fresh food to the NewHaven community.The state government, the city and private donors have contributed $9.6 million to the renovationproject; Common Ground is still short $600,000. The organization launched a community campaign toraise the remaining money for its new school building and other related improvements on its 20-acresite at the base of West Rock.The expansion would allow the student body to grow from 180 to 225 students. Speakers atTuesday’s event expressed their determination to retain the school’s intimate feeling as it grows.“We’re not just a school here—we’re a family. The atmosphere wasn’t developed easily. I think such asmall population has [had] the biggest role in making this school so family-based,” said Mettao Feliz,a Common Ground High School junior. “It’s not going to be easy for the students or the teachers to gothrough this change, but it’s good for everybody and it’s healthy for everybody involved in this, so it’simportant for this to happen.”The project will help expand community programs to reach 12,000 children and adults per year andhelp double the production of Common Ground’s urban farm.“Change means we’reaccepting everything we’re
Common Ground Broken
(3) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author  Posted to: Environment, Schools, West Rock
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trying to represent. We’retrying to representsustainability andenvironmental thinking,and this new building isreally going to demonstratethat,” said Feliz (pictured).“It’s very important for everybody involved tounderstand that this issomething good.”Not only will the new facilitycontain state-of-the-artscience, art, performanceand athletic space. It willalso include geothermalheating and cooling andsolar panels that willgenerate over 70 percent of Common Ground’s electricity.Feliz said despite the expansion and renovations, he does not expect the sense of family at CommonGround to disappear.“We have things that can still make us feel like a family—still make me feel like I have brothers andsisters at this school and not just peers I go to school with,” said Feliz, referring to the change asdelicate but important.Four years ago, Common Groundembarked on an ambitiousplanning envisioning project thatled to the development of a 10-year master plan. Today theorganization is “on the verge of actually realizing many of the goalsthat were established,” saidMelissa Spear, Common Ground’sexecutive director.Spear (pictured) said for the pastyear, Common Ground has beenengaged in “a very intensefundraising process for the fundswe need to make this vision areality”—a reality that includes notonly increasing the student body,but also bringing an additional2,000 people per year to the site for educational programming and“deepening our partnership with the New Haven Public School System to provide opportunities andsupport hands-on learning in the natural world as a means of improving educational outcomes andenvironmental awareness.”Common Ground staff passed out buttons to individuals at the gathering to show the appreciation for their contributions and support.“The button symbolizes our thanksto you for all you’ve done to get usto this point with your time, talent,your gifts, your financial gifts, your bounty of skills, your cooking, your farming, your love, your support,your good humor,” said CommonGround Board Chair William FrankMitchell (pictured). “It’sgroundbreaking, and we will beforever grateful to you.”“We want to see beauty and hear truth and raise money and growfood and change lives and create anew world—and we’re almostthere,” Mitchell said. “It’s just thebeginning. We’re going to raisemore money and we are going tokeep transforming lives andbringing new people on board andcreating great change.”Terry Jones, a fifth-generation farmer on Jones Family Farms in Shelton, called the work he has seen
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