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Norwalk Teachers: Put Students First In School Improvement Debate

Sen. Bob Duff, Mayor Harry Rilling and others announce their alternative plan for improving Norwalk schools at a press conference earlier this week.
Sen. Bob Duff, Mayor Harry Rilling and others announce their alternative plan for improving Norwalk schools at a press conference earlier this week. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox

NORWALK, Conn. -- After some elected officials this week announced an alternative to the Board of Education's plan to improve school infrastructure, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers has chimed in on the debate and said the parties should work together in the best interest of the city's students.

On Monday state Sen. Bob Duff, Mayor Harry Rilling, state Rep. Bruce Morris and others gathered to announce the "Fix It First" proposal, a plan to improve and modernize existing school buildings to address problems of overcrowding and deterioration. They presented it as an alternative to the Board of Education's plan, which they said does not appropriately address current problems with school buildings.

After the announcement, the Board of Education released a statement, saying that neither its members nor district administration had been made aware of the proposal prior to the announcement. The board said that it still had many questions about the plan, and said it did not meet current building standards or conform to the board's Strategic Operating Plan.

The Norwalk Federation of Teachers released a letter Wednesday evening addressing both plans.

"The Board’s plan prioritizes new classroom spaces with infrastructure and existing classroom improvements to follow, and the Fix It First plan prioritizes infrastructure and existing classroom improvements, and then school construction to follow," the letter said. "We in the Norwalk Federation of Teachers have felt dismay as the district’s plan ran into difficulties when the educational programs were selected, announced and not embraced."

"Both plans will need adjustment, but we need to move forward."

The teachers union said that students deserve a safe and healthy learning environment, "without the distractions of mold, leaks, crumbling asbestos floor tiles, boilers on the fritz, or oversized classes. We could serve the students more effectively by attention to these issues."

The union concluded its letter by pointing out that the mayor, City Council, Board of Education, superintendent and state delegation have all worked together in the past to address school issues.

"They all have the best interests of our students at heart. We are confident that working together, they will arrive at a good solution."

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