(Norwalk, Conn.) Today, May 26, 2022, Mayor Rilling announced that after more than 40 years, students in the South Norwalk community will finally have a neighborhood school. The City, through friendly negotiation, has reached an agreement in principle to acquire the piece of private property currently owned by the Hatch and Bailey Co. at 1 Meadow Street, Ext., for the neighborhood South Norwalk school. This matter will be referred to the Land Use and Building Management Committee of Common Council and the Common Council for formal approval to acquire the property. Approval of the shareholders of the Hatch and Bailey Company will also be necessary for the sale to proceed.
In the late 1970s, South Norwalk lost its neighborhood school when the district closed Nathaniel Ely School on Ingalls Avenue to desegregate schools. Ever since, South Norwalk children have enrolled in various schools throughout the City outside of South Norwalk and have had to endure long bus rides to and from school. South Norwalk children have missed out on the benefits afforded to students that are generally provided by a neighborhood school and many South Norwalk parents have also been subject to limitations as a result of this condition. Based on the current minority student population in the City of Norwalk, children in South Norwalk are no longer required by law to attend schools outside of their community. This new neighborhood school will allow Norwalk Public Schools to provide all South Norwalk children, ages PreK to 5 th grade, with the option to attend a brand new, first-class neighborhood school once the project is complete.
Since entering office in 2014, the desire to provide a neighborhood school in South Norwalk has been one of Mayor Rilling’s top priorities. In 2015-2016, the Board of Education developed a school facility master plan, which included a new South Norwalk school. Notwithstanding several unforeseeable setbacks from 2016 to 2019, the City of Norwalk never gave up on its promise to South Norwalk residents that they would get a high-quality, equitable neighborhood school.
“Children in the South Norwalk community deserve a neighborhood school and will finally get one,” said Mayor Harry Rilling. “After years of setbacks, we never gave up on fulfilling our promise to provide students and parents in South Norwalk with a world-class school in their community. The South Norwalk neighborhood school will do more than provide children with a place to learn. It will provide the neighborhood with a greater sense of community and be a place where parents and families can come together to see their loved ones participate in extracurricular activities, grow and meet their full potential, all in their own community.”
In 2020, in collaboration with the Board of Education, the City developed a strategy to acquire property and construct a new South Norwalk School, bringing the project one step closer to realization. In November of 2021, the Norwalk Board of Education adopted a plan to construct a new South Norwalk neighborhood school. Subsequently, the City expedited its efforts to acquire the property in time to meet the State reimbursement grant application submission deadline of June 30, 2022. During that process and after exhausting all options, it became clear to the City that 1 Meadow Street Ext., represented the only single lot that could meet City and State requirements for locating a school in South Norwalk.
“This has been a long journey but I’m proud that we have been able to overcome numerous hurdles and put forth solutions to deliver a neighborhood school on behalf of the children of South Norwalk.",” said Tom Livingston, Norwalk Common Council President.
"This project is all about the children of South Norwalk and future generations,” said Norwalk District B Common Council Member, Darlene Young. “It’s been a long time coming but the fact that students will no longer have to endure long bus rides to and from school and will have a neighborhood school will make a huge impact in their daily lives and in the lives of their families. I want to thank the City, the schools, and my fellow Common Council members for helping bring this effort to fruition.”
Fortunately, the South Norwalk School will qualify for the new 60 percent state reimbursement rate for new school construction projects in Norwalk over the next 25 years. This advancement is the result of the recently passed state budget bill. It will save the City millions of dollars, as the State was slated to contribute approximately $14 million under the old reimbursement rate and will now be contributing approximately $40 million.
"A new elementary school here will mean so much not only to the children, teachers, and staff that'll use this building but the community as a whole, “said State Senator Bob Duff. “A neighborhood school brings a sense of pride that can't be measured by any blueprint. While I am proud to have led the effort at the state level to secure additional funding for this school, that effort was only successful because of the work done on the ground here in Norwalk. The engagement of community members by the city and Board of Education to come together with a tremendous plan for this school that everyone is bought into sent the message to the state that Norwalk was ready for this new school and that we wanted it. Thank you to my partners in the city, the Board of Education, and this neighborhood. Together we are getting this done."
This school will have four sections per grade (two sections for PreK) with a total capacity of 682 students. The Land Use and Building Management Committee of Common Council is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, June 1. They will review and make recommendations to the Common Council at a Special Meeting on June 6 ahead of the State Grant’s June 30 deadline.
“I am pleased that we are one step closer to establishing a neighborhood school for the South Norwalk community,” said Dr. Alexandra Estrella, Superintendent, Norwalk Public Schools. “A new school in South Norwalk will enable the school district to provide a high-quality educational option, right within the neighborhood. It will increase PreK opportunities for local families, eliminate long bus rides to schools in other neighborhoods, and improve engagement through easier access for families and the community.”
The Hatch and Bailey Company is a family-owned business supplying professional contractors with quality products since its founding in 1872, now 150 years ago. Originally located on Marshall Street in South Norwalk, the company moved to 1 Meadow Street Ext. in 1986.
“This is bittersweet for Hatch and Bailey but we know that our property will be put to great use as an elementary school for the South Norwalk community,” said David Bailey, Director and Treasurer of Hatch & Bailey, Co. “We thank our employees for their integrity, professionalism and incredible work ethic. And I thank the Mayor, Common Council President and their team for being sensitive to our needs over the past few months.”