Brien McMahon High School has been serving the Norwalk, Connecticut, community since it opened as a junior-senior high school in September 1960. In January 1961, the entire student population of the then Benjamin Franklin Junior High moved in and remained until June, while Ben Franklin was being renovated. Brien McMahon’s first senior class graduated in June 1962. The athletic fields were not completed until the fall of 1964.
The construction of Roton Middle School relieved Brien McMahon of grades seven and eight and the change-over of Benjamin Franklin to a middle school saw the doors of Brien McMahon open in September, 1966 as a four-year high school. From 1961-1971, the building was also used by Norwalk Community College. In the fall of 1971, because of over-crowded conditions, the ninth grade was transferred to the building on East Avenue, which had once housed Norwalk High School. From 1971 through June 1981, the Brien McMahon freshman class used this facility, which came to be known as the Annex.
During the '79-'80 and '80-81 school years, an extensive renovation process took place to upgrade and improve the facilities and to make room for the 9th grade. Thus, in September, 1981, the four grade levels (9-12) once more were together after a ten year separation.
In 2002, a year after the installation of lights on the football field, the City of Norwalk realized that the field was being used so much that it was impossible to keep the grass alive. Therefore, the Parks and Recreation Department replaced the field with a very attractive artificial turf field, which is surrounded by a rubberized track. Once used for football, the field is now also used for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, as well as by BMHS physical education classes. In the middle of the field is the well-known McMahon “M,” in blue, with red trim.
Over the years, heating and ventilation systems in our building proved inadequate, and many of our classroom and laboratory facilities were badly dated and undersized. The exterior of the building had also become dingy and unattractive. Therefore, the school administration, supported by parents, students and staff, began a major effort to enlist support from the City of Norwalk. Their efforts resulted in the largest public construction project in the history of the City of Norwalk, with a budget that totalled about $75 million. In September 2003, work began on the east building, a beautiful curved building located between the original (west) building and the football field.
This building, which opened on February 28, 2005, houses a new heating system, a chiller for the school, which is now entirely air conditioned, a very large cafeteria, new science and world language classrooms, and about 50,000 square feet of classroom and meeting space for the Center for Global Studies, the interdistrict magnet program that evolved from the Center for Japanese Studies Abroad, which began in 1992.
Once the east building was completed, work began on a “like new” renovation of the west building. Most interior and exterior walls were removed, as was the roof, and an entirely new configuration was developed. In a former courtyard, a spectacular library was built, adding nearly 10,000 more square feet to the school. The auditorium and gymnasium were remodeled, new offices were built, and new classroom space was developed for many of our academic, arts and vocational departments. As is the case in the east building, the reconstruction of the west building places strong emphasis on allowing natural light into most areas of the school.
Students and staff moved into the “Phase 2” portion of the renovation on January 3, 2006, at which time the last part of the original building closed for similar renovation, with a completion date of July 6, 2006. In addition to the work done on the building, the project also provided the school with new tennis courts and a new softball field.
Brien McMahon High School, fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, has a short but impressive history of student accomplishments in the academic and extra-curricular fields.