"They motivate you. They are like mothers and fathers and uncles and big brothers and big sisters."
That's how one student described her experience as a student at Synergy Alternative High School in East Hartford.
She was one of dozens of current and former students and faculty who spoke before the East Hartford Board of Education on Tuesday night. One after another, they asked the board to reconsider closing the school, which at this point appears to be all but a done deal.
One faculty member told the board that even if the building must close, the program can be kept alive somewhere in the district in one of the existing schools.
"All we need is some rooms, our loving staff and our amazing students who overcome amazing obstacles to move forward in life," Synergy instructor Dave Bocchichio said.
Synergy students describe themselves as a family. Often unable to succeed in larger school settings for problems ranging from behavioral issues to attendance, they say they have found a place where they fit in Synergy.
"My teachers never give up on any student or anyone, and by leading this example, I'm not going to give up on them or our program," one student said.
The need to make drastic cuts comes from a $7 million budget shortfall in the district. Board chair Jeffrey Currey told the crowd the decision to close Synergy wasn't easy. He also assured them that the district would find similar programs within the district to make sure these students find a way to succeed
"These students are still going to receive those type of programs in a different setting, slightly restructured," Currey said.
Supporters of Synergy said their fight isn't over. They said they will attend East Hartford Town Council's meeting in February hoping that they intervene to save the program.