Opinion: Our students deserve State of the Art school facilities

The Democratic slate of Board of Education candidates: From left, Board member Heidi Keyes, seeking a third term, Common Council member Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large), Barbara Meyer Mitchell and Sarah Lemieux.

We believe every student, in every part of Norwalk, deserves a quality education. That means, first and foremost, that every student, from preschool through high school, deserves to experience a curriculum that is not only comprehensive and rigorous, but prepares him or her for life in the 21st Century.

We also believe every student in our schools deserves to be educated in facilities of the highest quality; facilities in which they are comfortable and which provide enough space for a variety of in- and out-of-classroom activities, such as music and art. These facilities should be state of the art. Our youngest residents deserve nothing less.

We are pleased that the Board of Education, working closely with a variety of city agencies, has adopted a five year, $130 million (after state reimbursements) facilities plan designed to make our school facilities second to none in the state. The plan, two years in the making, will not only alleviate overcrowding in our schools (which are currently at 110% of capacity), but will enable many students to attend schools closer to their homes.

We support the major components of the plan:

  1. The construction of a new K-8 school in South Norwalk near Ely Avenue. This school will be designed to accommodate the Bank Street Model of education.
  2. The construction of a new K-5 school and the renovation of the middle school at the Ponus Middle School site. This K-8 school will be designed to accommodate a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum.
  3. The renovation-as-new of Jefferson School, which has long been the site of ten portable classrooms due to overcrowding.
  4. The renovation-as-new of the Columbus School on Concord Street. This school will be designed to accommodate the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum.
  5. The plan allows for an average of roughly $7 million per year for essential repairs in additional district schools.
  6. This past summer, phase one of the asbestos abatement project at Cranbury School and phase one of the window replacement project at West Rocks Middle School were completed.

According to the Norwalk Public Schools Facilities Study, our schools are on average ten years older and 20% smaller than state averages. And it’s been more than forty years since the district built a new school. We applaud the BOE and the city for embarking on this much needed and long overdue project.

Norwalk is a vibrant city, with a growing grand list and major construction projects all across our urban centers. Unlike virtually every other municipality in Connecticut, our public schools have been experiencing enrollment increases. Over the last two years, consultants have analyzed our population trends and outlined projected enrollments into the near future. We appreciate the systematic manner in which the BOE has addressed current overcrowding and considered long term projections.

As educators and activists in education, we are sensitive to the importance of both the amount and the quality of space in our schools. Overcrowding is, of course, the paramount concern, and too many of our students have endured schooling in portable classrooms far too long. But we should note also that the construction of new schools will free up space for additional classes in the visual arts, music, technology and a variety of other activities that often lead to enhanced academic achievement.

Students spend a good portion of their daily lives in classrooms. These classrooms should be of the highest quality; with proper ventilation, air conditioning, minimal dust, safe and appropriate electrical supply for our growing use of technology, and proper lighting. The quality of our facilities sends a clear message that we, as a community, care deeply about the students who attend our schools.

Should we be fortunate enough to be elected on November 7, we promise to vigorously support and help implement in a timely manner the BOE’s five year facilities plan, as well as to lay the groundwork for capital planning well into the future.  We promise to work to make sure proper maintenance is a priority.  We cannot afford to neglect our school facilities again.

One comment

Not affiliated October 30, 2017 at 11:11 am

If I’m currently paying $9000 in taxes on my home plus another $1000 on my cars, what will my taxes be?

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