The Hartford (Conn.) school system has unveiled a consolidation plan that would create larger schools, close 10 buildings, reconfigure many programs and move them into new quarters.
The Hartford Courant reports that Hartford Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez says the changes are designed to improve the quality of all schools in the city. In general, the plan converts most of the city’s elementary schools from pre-kindergarten through grade 8 to pre-kindergarten through grade 5, and creates new feeder patterns in every community, with an elementary school leading to a middle school.
“This really is about reconfiguring the entire way we do business,” Torres-Rodriguez says. “Savings is not the major goal. It’s about freeing up resources to be reinvested.”
In an op-ed column in The Courant, Torres-Rodriguez says: "Fewer schools will mean fewer dollars spent on maintaining buildings and more dollars spent on learning. Closing under-capacity schools will allow for reinvestment in our remaining schools to make them better."
The changes would save schools $15 million a year at the end of the three years, by reducing utility and facility expenses, shrinking administrative staff and staffing larger schools more efficiently.
City leaders and educators have long talked about the need to consolidate schools. A previous proposal for consolidating city schools was abandoned in late 2016.
The first schools to close under the latest plan would be Simpson-Waverly and Batchelder—both targeted to close in June 2018.
The other major school buildings to be closed include Milner School in 2019 and the Mark Twain and Dwight schools in June 2020; the programs in those buildings, as with others at additional school locations slated to close, would be continued at other sites.
Clark School, which has been closed because of PCB contamination, would be shuttered permanently under the plan.
The plan also co-locates five magnet schools in school buildings with neighborhood schools.
The school board's central office for the Hartford Board of Education is slated to move from 960 Main St., where the rent is $88,000 a month, into Bulkeley High School in 2021.
Torres-Rodriguez said she wants the plan to establish clear pathways for families so they would know which schools their children would be attending.
Some school enrollments now are less than 200; Torres-Rodriguez says she wants schools to have about 400 students to ensure the most effective use of resources and staffing.
Torres-Rodriguez says the city’s middle schools have only about 120 to 150 students.
Past consolidation efforts have been focused on campuses with low enrollment, but Torres-Rodriguez says her proposal puts a priority on neighborhood schools in an effort to ensure excellence across the system.