THROWBACK THURSDAY: Thirty years ago public opposed plan to consolidate Wallingford high schools

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Thirty years ago public opposed plan to consolidate Wallingford high schools

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WALLINGFORD — In recent months, the Board of Education has discussed whether to consolidate schools.

Thirty years ago, a plan to consolidate high schools was proposed, but later rejected after overwhelming public opposition.

In 1989, then-School Superintendent Robert Nicoletti proposed that Lyman Hall and Sheehan high schools be consolidated. Under the plan, one of the high schools would have been converted to a junior high school and other grades would be regrouped, according to Record-Journal archives.

An estimated 300 people attended a public hearing on the plan at Lyman Hall, with 15 addressing the school board. Several proposed alternatives and a petition against the consolidation proposal with 4,300 signatures was shown.

Nicoletti countered that consolidation would save money and that the trend of declining enrollment would eventually lead to insufficient use of school buildings. 

“My gut feeling is if all of the options are clearly stated and people understand the ramifications, I think the majority of people will opt for the least expensive option,” Nicoletti said in a 1989 interview.

At the time, Nicoletti said it cost the Board of Education roughly $4 million annually to operate each of the high schools. In 1977, Sheehan High School enrollment peaked at 1,313 students, but declined each year following and dropped to 712 students at the time the consolidation was proposed in 1988. Nicoletti said that Lyman Hall High school showed a similar decline, peaking with 1,490 students in 1975 before falling to 912 students in 1988.

The proposed school reorganization plan was presented to the public, despite warnings from several board members that it would be rejected by the public. In March, residents formed a group called Citizens for an Alternative Proposal.

After four months of debate, the Board of Education decided in April to keep both high schools open in a 6-1 vote. After the vote, audience members applauded.
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