Rafeena Bacchus Lee
Co-Chair, Comprehensive FHS
Original: Hartford Courant
To the Editor: I am writing to express my support for the Farmington High School Building referendum, scheduled for June 3rd.
My husband and I moved to Farmington for the schools. As socio-economically disadvantaged kids growing up in New York City, we know the power of education not only to change one’s trajectory in life, but also to determine the success of future generations. My husband and I were lucky enough to test into Stuyvesant High School. After many years in our aging and damaged flagship school building on First Avenue, my husband and I were part of the first graduating class from a new building on Chambers Street in 1993.
Now living in Farmington, with three children in the public school system, it seems my life has come full circle. For the past two years, I’ve been following the FHS Building project with intense interest. At first, I was curious about the process and the tax implications. Then I visited the high school. I not only saw the extent of the repairs needed but I also heard firsthand from students how their education is being disrupted by a facility that is failing them. Do you know that most of the building is not ADA compliant? That means students who are in wheelchairs or who have limitations can’t take art and language classes on the 2nd floor. The floors are sloped and their wheelchairs can’t lock. The sinks are too high and they can’t even wash their hands. Do you know that when it rains outside, it also rains inside the building? During rainstorms, the school uses buckets in the hallways to catch the water leaking from the ceiling. These are just two examples of the many ways this building interferes with teaching and learning.
On June 3rd, we have an opportunity to solve this glaring issue. The FHS Building Committee completed an in-depth, methodical and lengthy review process before recommending the construction of a new building. After looking at all the options, Town Council unanimously agreed that a new building fully addresses current needs, accommodates future growth and provides the space to fully implement educational programming. Not only that, when compared to a renovation, a new building was the most cost effective solution.
While Farmington residents have proven financially conservative and responsible, we also open our collective purse strings when there is a critical need in our community. A new high school building is a critical need, not a want. Yes, it is true that we would all see an increase in our property taxes (on average $466 total over 5 years). In the long run, however, a new high school is an investment in our town’s future. An investment that will ensure Farmington remains a desirable place to live.
Let’s give our students a building that is free from leaks and is accessible to all. A building that will be heated and cooled appropriately. A building that is safe and secure. Let’s not allow any disagreements to cloud what is clearly required for our children. Please, get to the polls on Thursday, June 3rd. Join me and Vote YES for a functioning building with the space and basic necessities for our children to thrive.
Rafeena Bacchus Lee, Co-Chair, Comprehensive FHS
Community support for the project is strong - Read more letters!