Over two meetings, the Sandy Hook Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) unanimously voted last week to advocate for a Yes vote for the Saturday, October 5, referendum for the authorization for the town government to spend state money on demolishing, designing, and building a Sandy Hook School.
According to Sandy Hook School PTA President Stephanie Burns, First Vice President Jennifer Taylor, and member Karen Holden, the meetings focused more on how to get people out to vote rather than on whether or not to advocate.
“We discussed the fact that we need to get people out to vote,” said Ms Holden. “We also discussed some of the things that we have been hearing about people having reluctance or questions about [the vote]. For example, we talked about how it is not just going to benefit Sandy Hook School. We need people from across the whole town to come out and support the vote.”
While discussing questions on declining enrollment, Ms Holden said the PTA members pointed out that the school will be housed at Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School until 2016.
“We would need a place after that point, and enrollment is not down enough to bring us home without it impacting the other schools as well,” said Ms Holden.
With roughly 400 students attending Sandy Hook School, Ms Holden said the PTA does not know how those students could be distributed into the other three schools in town without the purchase of portable classrooms.
Ms Burns said it is important to think beyond the next four years in terms of enrollment and building needs.
Referencing what Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed has said in the past, Ms Taylor said Newtown “needs seven schools” again.
“At some point, yes, we may need to consolidate,” said Ms Holden, “but at some point we might need that seventh school. And if we don’t have it, it becomes Newtown’s burden to take it on solely on our own without the aid of the state.”
Ms Holden also said she sees voting Yes as Newtown’s duty to support the decisions made at the state level in order to offer the referendum.
“We just want to bring our kids home to Newtown,” said Ms Burns, with both Ms Taylor and Ms Holden adding, “together.”
Ms Holden said Monroe has been wonderful to offer Chalk Hill Middle School, but, she said, Sandy Hook School students cannot stay there forever.
Ms Burns, Ms Taylor, and Ms Holden said it is important for Newtown’s voters to understand that the referendum is a “one-time thing.” If the vote is rejected, there will be no more referendums, like with budget votes.
If the referendum results in the town rejecting the state’s offer, Ms Holden said it is important people understand the entire project to demolish the existing Sandy Hook School, then design and build a new facility, will cease.
To encourage people to vote on October 5, Ms Holden said the PTA has garnered the support of the Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP), which has offered to hand out reminders and display fliers in windows.
Ms Holden also said members of the PTA will be around town on October 5 with signs reminding everyone to vote, and before the date arrives PTA members will be attending ball fields to discuss the referendum with fellow residents. Phone calls will also be made to parents as reminders.
The PTA is also promoting a “Text 5 on October 5,” plan, that asks residents to text five friends on October 5 to remind them to vote.
“It’s important that everyone understands the Sandy Hook School, the PTA, supports this and wants people not just to vote, but to vote Yes,” said Ms Taylor. “And I think it is important from a town perspective that we have a significant showing of support for the state, so they know not only do we want to receive their grant, but that we appreciate the grant.”
Voting for the referendum will be held at Newtown Middle School, 11 Queen Street, on Saturday, October 5, from 6 am until 8 pm.