Hartford students head back to start a new school year - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hartford students head back to start a new school year

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A newly renovated gym at West Middle School A newly renovated gym at West Middle School
The new rooftop playground at West Middle School in Hartford. (WFSB photo) The new rooftop playground at West Middle School in Hartford. (WFSB photo)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Thousands of students in Hartford will begin the new school year Tuesday morning. 

The district as a whole faces some challenges this year with pending consolidation following a dip in enrollment and a tight budget. 

"[We're looking forward to] a fresh start," said Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, Hartford Public Schools. "We always look forward to welcoming our students back. We miss them!"

Staff and administrators will tour several locations district wide, including the newly renovated West Middle School.

"We're so proud whenever we can open a renovated building for our students because they all deserve just beautiful spaces to learn in," Schiavino-Narvaez said.

The school features a clinic and roof-top playground. 

Principal Lynn Estey joined Eyewitness News on Tuesday morning before the start of school.

"We had a parent event last week, we had lots of families taking tours [and] they're all very excited, teachers are excited, I'm excited," Estey said. 

Estey said West Middle School is doing pretty well when it comes to fighting absenteeism.

"We're down to about 16 percent from 24 percent several years ago," she said. "We work hard, we have weekly attendance meetings with managers and we really work hard with parents to understand that it's important that the kids are in school every day."

Other stops on the tour include the Burr School and University High School, which has a partnership with the University of Hartford. 

As far as enrollment and building issues go, Schiavino-Narvaez said the district needs to come up with a master plan.

"I've started an advisory committee called 'Equity 20-20,'" she said. "Because we want to have a long-term plan to make sure that everybody can attend a school in a beautiful building, so this is parents, our teachers, principals, community leaders that are helping us figure out this long-term plan."

Schiavino-Narvaez also touched on staff cuts from the budget.

"No doubt it's been a challenge," she said. "We've had to reduce our staff by 235 positions. That doesn't meant that that was the number of layoffs. We were able to bring back most of our teachers."

Schiavino-Narvaez acknowledged that everyone was having to do more with less.

"Despite these budget cuts, we were still able to preserve access to the arts and to preserve a social worker in each school so that our students can have a well-rounded education and still feel supported everywhere they go," she said.

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