OPINION: The high school question: one or two?

I learned an acronym the other day: SWOT.

It sounds like the past participle of SWAT, as in someone or something that has been swatted, or swot.

But it doesn’t mean that at all, of course. It stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You could apply it to just about anything, I suppose.

In this case, though, it applies to schools. As the Record-Journal reported recently, in 2019 the Wallingford school district had a SWOT analysis performed. From what I gather, it started with the administration of Salvatore Menzo, when he was school superintendent, and has continued on under the leadership of Danielle Bellizzi.

What we’re looking at, in case you are confused, is the town’s two high schools, Lyman Hall and Sheehan, and the question of whether the town would be better off keeping them as two separate high schools or from combining them into a single entity. I suppose there’s no harm in applying a little SWOT analysis to the question.

This is a big question, of course. You shouldn’t just mess around with proposals for such a big change without doing a lot of study and preparation for it. You want to make sure you’re doing the right thing before you start doing it.

My initial thought, probably not a very helpful one, typically turns to sports. As in, are the Trojans and Titans going to be better teams by combining into one? And, just as importantly, what are you going to call them, Trojans or Titans?

While that might seem like a detail, I take it as part of what people are talking about when they talk about culture of the schools. Sports and boosterism help schools put their attitude and pride on display. The other thought I had, also probably not helpful at this point, is what would happen to the Samaha Bowl?

(Here you’d have to stop and explain, perhaps to a spy balloon, that the Samaha Bowl started in the 1970s as a celebration and affirmation of women in sports and is named for a Lyman Hall coach who came to Sheehan at that school’s onset and started powder puff… and so on).

The story by the R-J’s Jessica Simms offered details you can compare. Keeping the schools separate and renovating each comes in at more than $218 million, with the cost for the town at just more than $123 million “after state reimbursement.” Combining into one high school and a brand new building makes that more than $239 million with just less than $155 million for the town.

If you combine, the new building should be at the Lyman Hall location, because that’s where the vocational agricultural center is. Class sizes would be roughly the same either way, said Bellizzi, though the one-school route would offer more opportunity when it comes to courses.

All of this could start to take shape very soon. Simms reported that the school board is set to meet Monday, and that “members could make their decision regarding the high schools at this meeting.”

Kathy Castelli said that in her 15 years on the school board “this is the biggest decision I’ve ever made.”

It’s a simple enough question. One or two? But contemplate the number of lives that are going to be influenced by the answer.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.


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