Closing Simpson-Waverly School will do more harm than good

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Regarding the proposed closure of Simpson-Waverly school in Hartford:

The superintendent of Hartford has proposed to close two schools and consolidate others mostly in the poorest and most segregated areas of the city in order to cut cost and avoid costly building renovations. The vote will take place in the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

As professors who worked in the past several years in partnership with Simpson-Waverly Pre-K-8 school, we would like to suggest that such closure will do more harm than good and will be much more costly in the long run for the city of Hartford.

Simpson-Waverly is situated in the most impoverished neighborhood in Hartford. The northeast neighborhood has more abandoned buildings and businesses than any other areas in the city. The school, however, is one of the few institutions that provides a sense of hope to the residents.

The newly installed playground on Kenney Park, where the school is located, has also injected new life to this area. Most children walk to school, and parents, most of whom do not have cars, have easy access to the school. The school provides food for the children and food packages for the weekend. Parents engage daily with the school and many of the staff have grown up in this neighborhood as well.

The school has been a great source of inspiration to many of our college students at Central Connecticut State University. In addition to spending field experience in classrooms, they mentored children and provided for whole-school projects such as painting murals, organized college trips, video productions, and whole-school art and music activities. Concurrently, our students read the book “Children in Room E4” that tells the story of the Sheff vs O’Neil desegregation court case as well as a class in Simpson-Waverly. In 2003, the school achieved the highest test scores in Hartford as well as various awards.

Last year, the school organized the 47th anniversary of the school and invited former administrators, teachers, and activists for a panel and celebration. The daughter of Dr. Frank T. Simpson, whose school is named after, was the keynote speaker. All the speakers had the same message, if you close the school, you close the neighborhood. Simpson-Waverly is the heart of this neighborhood and deserves to be maintained and further thrive.

As the city of Hartford aspires to develop the city to a vibrant and prosperous community, closing Simpson-Waverly school will only further deteriorate the neighborhood. Parents will move out to be closer to the new schools their children will attend and the number of vacancies will increase.

We urge the school board and superintendent to rethink their decision and to seek more investments and more partnerships with Simpson-Waverly. For example, last year, CCSU contributed more than 80 computers to the school as well as other technology gadgets. We see the future of the City of Hartford as interconnected to its neighborhood schools.

Aram Ayalon, PhD is Professor of Education and Yonty Friesem PhD Assistant Professor of Communication at Central Connecticut State University.


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