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SMC: Statement to Avon Residents Re: Reggio School of the Arts

Tuesday November 15, 2011

The Reggio Magnet School of the Arts operated by CREC has been located in temporary rental space in Avon for the last three years. On November 22, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at the Avon Senior Center located at 635 West Avon Road, the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission will determine whether the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) may build a permanent school for the Reggio children. The proposed location is on Waterville Road near the intersection of Waterville and Route 44. The site is currently owned by Dr. R. Beebe.

Opposition to the Magnet School

Opposition to the proposal has been troubling; it has primarily centered on purported traffic concerns. CREC has addressed all legitimate concerns expressed by the Commission and the community with expert testimony and reports. Experts have concluded that the school will not adversely impact traffic patterns. CREC has also expressed its willingness to pay to improve current road conditions by adding turning lanes and traffic lights. It has also proposed a shared road maintenance plan for Avonwood Road, a private road. Yet, opposition persists.

In addition to traffic, opponents have cited their desire to have a commercial developer purchase Dr. Beebe’s land in order to generate property tax revenue for the town. Generating tax revenue is not a legal basis to deny any application. Further, Dr. Beebe has been trying for 15 years to sell the property to a commercial developer without success. At the last P&Z hearing, Dr. Beebe described his many failed efforts to sell the land to commercial developers. He also pointed out that any development of the property would produce additional traffic. He asked the town for permission to sell his land to CREC.

Reggio’s Children

Reggio’s children are ages 3 through 10 years; half of the children come from Hartford and the other half are from Avon and neighboring towns. Many of the children come from poor backgrounds, and their parents have applied to Reggio to help give them a better education. Their educational foundations are made at Reggio, and then after the fifth grade, the children can move on to other magnet schools in the region. But just as importantly, for Avon children, the Reggio magnet school provides the opportunity to learn with students from different backgrounds, which benefits long term critical thinking skills as well as lessons of tolerance, reduced stereotyping, and cultural competency in an increasingly multicultural world.

Why Avon? The proposed location on Waterville Road, near the river, fields and trees was chosen because it is ideally suited for the school’s curriculum, a curriculum that emphasizes nature and the arts as themes to teach all subjects. The other central theme of the school is community – the importance of community in one’s life and an individual’s responsibilities toward community – a value deeply held in Avon.

The historical significance of the P&Z decision is that Reggio is the first magnet school to be established over the mountain in the Farmington Valley. In the history of the effort to provide equal educational opportunity to all children in the Greater Hartford Region, particularly those who have been isolated in areas of poverty, that fact is of tremendous historical importance.

Please attend the hearing to support Reggio and express your support for the school. Please feel free to forward this email to other residents who support quality, integrated education to close the achievement gap. If you cannot attend, please consider sending an email of support for the school to the Commission at lsadlon@town.avon.ct.us.