10.07.2013

Voting to Move Newtown Forward


Next step forward.

The State of Connecticut graciously offered Newtown a $50 million grant to teardown and rebuild the Sandy Hook Elementary School where, well, you know.

Currently, our Sandy Hook kids attend an elementary school in Monroe, the next town down. A gracious, temporary fix to a horrific situation that we are grateful for, but anxious to make our town whole again by bringing these kids back to Newtown.

As a town, we had to vote to formally accept the $50 million state grant. Which in Newtown can be a problem as referendums of any kind are difficult, especially if and when money is involved – and especially when education funds are concerned. People get antsy. Some people get downright impossible.

Votes in small town America affecting education are never easy: not when too many are still are out of work; not when our seniors struggle with mind-blowing property taxes; not when a forecast of shrinking school enrollments loom on the horizon; and not when a madman mows down a classroom of kids with an assault weapon and forever changes our world.

And most painful of all, some families do not want to return to that ground no matter how much they completely alter the new building, entrance, and grounds. It's just too difficult to imagine returning under any circumstances. If you would only imagine.

But to do nothing, in our town, is to do nothing for a very, very long time.

A vocal contingency on Facebook, the new watercooler, coffee shop and Saturday morning dump runs all rolled into a 24/7 hour relentless complaint cycle, insists we are moving "way too fast" and we should "think this through."


I only look to Fairfield Hills, a dormant, neglected, condemned psychiatric hospital on the prettiest property in town that we have been thinking through for over a decade. Almost two.

We need a new police station, a new senior center, and a paid EMS and fire department. We have a long list of needs, but here's one solution that is being handed to us from a sympathetic state trying to make our pain a little less.

If the vote went down, we'd lose the grant. A yes vote gives us the funds, no takes it away. Should be a simple decision, but with our referendum history and apathy of voters, it was not a sure thing.

At the Newtown Middle School where the referendum was held, there was a steady flow of voters; something to smile about. My friend Lucy was adamant: "This better pass or I'll have to leave."

I told her I would never, ever move. I love it here.
"Really?" she said. "You could stay here? Can you even imagine living in a town that wouldn't support this? What kind of human being would not support tearing down that building and building a new school to bring our kids home? It's a grant – who would ever say no??!!
I agree. For the first time, I thought I too would have to move if our town was filled with naysayers who care more about dollars and cents than broken hearts and fractured souls. 


We needed to vote to accept it. I was worried our voters would say no. Or worse, say nothing.

I was not alone with these concerns, and I watched as Newtown rallied; a huge community effort to get out accurate information both on-line, and on the streets of town. Elected officials and PTAs. Coaches and teachers. On soccer sidelines, at the gas station and the bagel store. The town was buzzing: "Did you vote?" "Did you vote yet?"

At 8:25 pm I heard. 

It was a landslide of optimism and love. 4,504 versus 558 votes in favor of the funding. 90% of voters said yes. Yes to a future. Yes to Connecticut. Yes to bring our Sandy Hook kids home to Newtown.

And so the demolition begins so we can bring all of our Sandy Hook students back home where they belong. 

Almost all.


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3 comments:

  1. Sounds like my hometown.....but we don't have the state of Wisconsin handing us money for a good reason. But we do take forever to make any decisions about things. School enrollment has been declining for almost two decades yet it wasn't until about five or six years ago that they decided to close one of the elementary schools (the oldest of the three in town). And then they let it sit and sit and sit until one of the small, private church schools and a daycare started renting it out (as theirs was lost in a fire). If they hadn't come along, the building would probably still be sitting empty.

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    1. the school our SH students are in now is one moth-balled in neighboring town; we are lucky it was there! glad your town was able to multipurpose school as well; and very glad not for same reason.

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