coronavirus in connecticut

New Haven School Buildings Condemned After COVID-19 Inspections

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West Rock Stream Academy was once home to about 200 New Haven students. Now it may never reopen again.

“We were happy about the class sizes, ratio for teachers to students was much lower,” said Darnell Goldson, whose grandson attends West Rock.  

Despite how much they liked what went on in class, Goldson says he’s glad the city has recommended condemning West Rock and Quinnipiac School following a COVID-19 reopening inspection. He says he’s pushed for closures for the last three years citing building conditions, low attendance and expenses.

“Of course, they use COVID as the excuse, but these schools have been in poor condition for a long time,” said Goldson.

Now students from both schools will enter a special lottery for placement in new schools across the district. School officials will meet with parents Tuesday night.

“We’re meeting with those families to share with them the plan we have in mind which includes options for in person and remote learning,” said Tracey.

David Cicarella is president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. He says there’s room at schools even within a few miles of the ones set to close.

“They’re going to have to go to a different school, different students, different teachers, it’s not a good situation,” said Cicarella. “But the reality is safety first and they just cannot return to those buildings.”

Teachers will continue online classes from home this year for students who choose not to go to a new school in January when in-person classes resume.  

Teachers at those schools will be first in line for new jobs in the district this spring. They’ll interview with principals for jobs that they feel are the best fit. The administration will then make hiring recommendations.

“It’s kind of a long tedious process, but it’s the best process in that the teachers have some choice as to their assignment where they feel they can be successful,” said Cicarella.

Health Director Maritza Bond says she was part of a task force of health officials, building officials, mechanical inspectors and the fire marshal’s office, all asked by the school board to inspect more than 40 school buildings in the city.

The order to condemn the two schools comes after finding expected deterioration in the buildings and learning the HVAC system couldn’t be fitted with high-efficiency MERV air filters.

“In an older building it's expected but when you’re taking into consideration the pandemic, you have to think about the public welfare and the wellbeing of individuals,” said Bond.

The inspections are not something they would ordinarily do outside of the pandemic.

“We wanted to make sure that all safety precautions that were going to ensure proper mitigation, proper containment and having isolation rooms were all in place before we reopened,” she said.  

But questions remain for Goldson about West Rock after the untraditional inspection.

“We had students in this building a couple months ago, special ed students in this building. How do we go from October and the school being used to December and the school being condemned?” he asked.

Goldson’s grandson was last in the building in March and is now among students looking for a new school.

“It was the first time walking to school by himself. He was excited we were excited,” said Goldson.

He says he’d want to find out more about the condition of the buildings to see if they can be used for the community in the future.

“We could rehab them so they could be leased out so they could be generating funds for the school system,” said Goldson.

West Rock was one of a few schools on a list to be rebuilt, but Goldson doubts state funding would have been available in the next few years. He says the state would have to pay 85% of the building cost.

Now the district will have to decide what to do with it next.

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