Just four years ago Farmington voters resoundingly defeated a proposal for a new high school, but thanks to the advocacy of educators, students, and parents, last week the town voted two to one to replace the aging building.
Farmington Education Association President James McNamara explains that the oldest part of the current high school was built in the 1920s and has been added onto in a sprawling series of additions every 20 to 30 years since then.
“In the older parts, the roof leaks,” says McNamara (seen above knocking on the door of D.J. Keith, an East Hartford Education Association member and Farmington resident). “Who knows what building materials they used in some sections. Students and teachers frequently find mold and rodent droppings.”
The building is overcrowded, has failing and outdated mechanical and ventilation systems, and is not up to current accessibility codes. Recently the school has been in jeopardy of losing its NEASC accreditation.
Knowing how much was riding on the outcome of the referendum, McNamara and the FEA executive council were committed to doing all they could to ensure Farmington students would have the educational experience they deserve. They enlisted the help of CEA Political Engagement Coordinator Gus Melita and Regional Organizer Brendan Murphy in order to reach out to all CEA members who live in town to urge a yes vote.
McNamara says it was a multipronged effort involving letters, emails, texting, and door knocking at CEA members’ homes. The FEA also wrote opinion pieces and letters to the editor that were published in several local newspapers.
“We knocked on doors and followed up with personal phone calls asking members to vote yes and encourage their family and neighbors to vote yes. It was well received,” McNamara says. “I really got a sense that the people I spoke to were behind the project. Taxes in Farmington are much lower than those in surrounding communities, and the new school represents a small tax increase that will have big benefits for our students.”
Farmington educators were proud of their community last Thursday evening when they learned voters had overwhelmingly supported the new school. Construction on a new three-story building that will stand near the current school will begin in 2022.