New high school in Clinton designed to maximize student-teacher interaction

CLINTON -- New schools are popping up all over the state, but the Morgan School in Clinton is likely among a select few whose design was inspired, in part, by shopping malls and airports.

Immediately upon entering the nearly $50 million school, which opened its doors on Tuesday, one notices the open floor plan. Unlike most cookie-cutter schools, natural light floods the building throughout due to large, often times floor-to-ceiling, windows.

"I feel like that's going to invoke a more positive environment in our school ," said Gaby Bussiere, a junior.

The mission in creating the new Morgan School: it must be a space that affords collaboration between faculty and students.

Juliana Ragonese, a senior, credits the collaborative mission with the way the building is laid out.

"Math and science are grouped in the same hallway and then humanities classes, like English, history and world language are also grouped together. That way teachers can collaborate on their curriculum and everything easier," she said.

Aesthetically-pleasing furniture, including chairs, couches and tables, are placed strategically throughout the school, be it in common areas or in one of two large collaborative rooms designed to offer teachers and students several different types of meeting spaces.

Hallways, which are complete with over-sized window sills, feed into a central hub like many airports. On the ground floor, there's a food court (don't call it a cafeteria) patterned after ones typical of local malls. It was designed to be welcoming, especially to those students who might not feel comfortable in large crowds.

"We have a selection of seating, from regular tables and chairs to booth seating and higher tables or even counter top type tables," said Keri Hagness, the school's principal.

The students and teachers will also be able to take their classes outdoors, where several meeting spots are set up, including a mini amphitheater.

"We came up with that concept, which goes back to ancient Greece, in terms of a central market place, where ideas are exchanged," said Hagness.

And the new school salutes its history. A bell dating back to the original Morgan School in 1870 is displayed in the courtyard behind the school. In front, part of that schoolhouse's facade is on display. Just inside the main entrance is a portrait of Clinton native Charles Morgan, a shipping and railroad magnate who paid for the construction of the original high school and set up an endowment to care for its maintenance costs.

"It has made me realize just how grateful I am to be in a community that values education so much to give us this gift this amazing new building," said Julia Horan, a senior.