By RACHEL GOTTLIEB , Hartford Courant Staff Writer
Laura Jones could hardly believe what she was doing Wednesday morning: celebrating the start of construction at Rawson Elementary School.
"It's happening,'' she declared to an audience assembled to watch Mayor Eddie A. Perez and other officials break ground at the school. "We went through the stormy rain, but it's happening.''
Technically, ground was broken at Rawson, Naylor, Webster and Burr last spring. But $280 million is going into the renovation of those schools, Hartford Public, the Greater Hartford Classical Magnet School and the construction of Breakthrough Magnet School, so Perez felt like celebrating.
Perez chose Rawson, which is getting $33 million in renovations, as the site to savor success because of the particularly bitter path the school has traveled. Three years ago, then-Superintendent of Schools Anthony Amato planned to close the school to save money but he told residents it would close for renovations.
As there were no architectural drawings, no budget and no clear plans for the work, residents of the Blue Hills neighborhood didn't buy it. And they were angry. Jones emerged as one of the most impassioned crusaders to keep the school open.
Last spring, Superintendent Robert Henry hinted again that the school might close to save money and to undergo renovations. She called Perez, and he promised Rawson wouldn't close.
"But mayor, it's in the paper,'' Jones remembered saying.
"I tell you, it's not going to close,'' Perez told her. "Well, it's not going to close,'' Jones said Wednesday, construction going on to her right and to her left.
Each of the elementary schools will get a new library wired for the Internet; a special education suite with conference rooms and offices; new lunchrooms; a clinic with a room for a dental hygienist; and either a new or an expanded auditorium.
Also, each school will get new classrooms, including rooms for art and music and the portable classrooms will be removed from Burr.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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