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Batchelder School is one of several that will close in Hartford

Hartford (Conn.) board approves consolidation plan that will close a dozen school buildings

The plan is intended to help the system address a $1.9 million shortfall, dropping enrollment and low-performing schools.

The Hartford (Conn.) school board has voted 8-0 to approve a consolidation plan that will close a dozen buildings and reconfigure the city’s school system.

The Hartford Courant reports that each of the eight board members said they believe that Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez’s plan will lead to better schools.

“Quite honestly it’s somewhat breaking my heart tonight,” board member Kimberly Oliver says. “This has been no rubber stamp. This has been very difficult.” 

The plan calls for closing a dozen school buildings over the next three years and reconfiguring others — a move that Torres-Rodriguez projects will eventually save $15 million annually. The school system is dealing with a $1.9 million shortfall, dropping enrollment and low-performing schools that are well below capacity. 

Torres-Rodrigues released a statement after the vote: “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. 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 most contested aspect of the plan has been closing two pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade elementary schools — Simpson-Waverly in the North End and Batchelder in the South End. Hundreds of parents and students came to public hearings and protested the proposed closings.

The board vote also makes official the closure plans for Capital Community Magnet Academy — announced last year — as well as closing Clark Elementary School, which was shut down three years ago because of PCB contamination.

Torres-Rodriguez hopes to improve the quality of city schools by concentrating more students in fewer schools so that more resources will be available to students.

The plan also calls for developing a middle school system to replace the city’s pre-kindergarten through grade eight system, as well as reconfiguring and relocating many school programs over the next three years as various facilities are shut down.

Included in the plan is the conversion and renovation of Martin Luther King Jr. School into a middle school in the fall of 2020, and the conversion of Milner School into a middle school and its relocation to the Journalism and Media Academy school building in fall 2019.

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