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Students, parents, faculty protest Hartford’s decision to shutter two schools

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HARTFORD - A group of students parents and teachers from Batchelder Elementary School stood on the side of the road Wednesday afternoon protesting a decision to close it at the end of the school year.

"Well I'm not surprised," said Antony Daley, a parent. "Anything that happens in the educational system in Hartford, they always stifle it and undercut it."

The Hartford Board of Education approved the District Model for Excellence restructuring plan with a unanimous vote of 8-0 Tuesday night.

Effective at the end of the 2017-18 school year, Director of Communications Pedro Zayas said the district will close Louis W. Batchelder Elementary School, Dr. Frank T. Simpson-Waverly Elementary School. Capital Community College Magnet Academy will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

"I want to thank our school community as a whole, our students, families, staff and partners for engaging in this critical process of redesigning our district,” said Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez. “This has been an intense and challenging process for many of us. But we are facing the challenge by making the difficult decisions that have been delayed for far too long. It is time to change. We can do this together.”

"The building of John C. Clark Elementary School, which is out of service due to contamination concerns, will be relinquished immediately by Hartford Public Schools. And Central Office at 960 Main Street will be relocated to other school buildings when the lease expires in 2020," Zayas said.

The plan consists of recommendations that can provide safe and equitable access to high-quality teaching and learning for all students, expanded community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability.

“We commend Superintendent Torres-Rodriguez for her diligent work in this crucial matter,” said Board Chairman Craig Stallings. “We want to build a school district where families will no longer have to depend on a random education lottery system to meet their children’s needs. Now all our students will have the resources to reach out for their best hopes and dreams.”

Zayas said while Weaver High school is under construction and Martin Luther King, Jr. slated for renovation in 2018, the district will count with two fully renovated school buildings in the near future.

"The recommendations also call for the establishment of a dual language school in English and Spanish," said Zayas.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead. After nine consecutive years of flat or reduced funding for our schools, at the end of this three-year implementation we will be able to reinvest approximately $15 million more per year on high-leverage investments,” said Dr. Torres-Rodriguez. “More importantly, Hartford will be in a stronger position to offer high-quality education opportunities for every student in every school.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin released the following statement in regards to Tuesday's decision:

“This evening, the Board of Education voted unanimously to support a difficult but necessary reorganization of the Hartford Public Schools.  The Superintendent and the members of the Board are working to put the district in a better position to provide the support, programming, and pathways necessary to help students succeed.

I know that for the school communities and for the families directly affected by school closures and other changes, this process is a painful one.  To those families, please know that the Superintendent, the Board, and the City as a whole recognize how important it is to provide support during this time of transition.

The Superintendent and the Board are focused, first and foremost, on the all-important goal of providing a quality education to kids in every neighborhood.  I want to commend the Superintendent and the Board for their willingness to take on the tough mission of making change, and I want to thank all of the students, parents, teachers, and others in the Hartford community who participated in this process.”

For full summary of plan, click here.

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