Page 46 - Wallingford Magazine Holiday 2020 Issue 30
P. 46

    Schoolsk Wallingford 1971-2020 | BY JOE PAJOR
With the opening of Sheehan High in 1971, Walling- ford’s ambitious two-decade building activity ended with 15 schools, a 50 percent increase in just 11 years.
access to family planning services.
Wallingford mirrored this national trend with the first
signs of declining school enrollments appearing after 1971. Now, instead of determining if schools needed to be built, the Board of Education [BOE] focus became what schools to close.
The first school closings were obvious and mostly non- controversial. The school system was utilizing three elemen- tary schools originally built around the turn of the century. Although all having major renovations during their existence, Washington, Simpson, and Whittlesey schools were the obvi- ous schools to first close.
Washington and Simpson schools were closed in 1973. While the community accepted the BOE school closing de- cisions, it still created many bittersweet feelings for those neighborhoods. Schools felt like part of the family.
Ben Klimszak, who taught at Washington from 1952 un- til it closed in 1973, shared his observations with the Record Journal, “The parents really cared about this school. The neighborhood was neither elegant nor run down. Regardless how strapped the parents were, they still saw to it that the children had what they needed by organizing book or sports equipment sales.” To these multicultural neighborhoods made up of Polish, Italian, Hebrew, Hungarian, and other eth- nicities, a good education was the key for their children to open opportunities for better lives.
Since my parents were Polish immigrants, it was forced on me that my highest priority was to excel in school, never challenge any school authority, and never ever cause trouble. My father made such an impression on me with his constant words, “I want you to do well in school, so you can have a bet- ter life than I have. Getting average grades is not an option!” [His tone was much more threatening!]
I only realized in my later years how much my parents sacrificed so that my brothers and I would have a better life. They succeeded but I now regret my appreciation came too late to tell them, “thank you.”
Washington school was demolished in 1978 to make way for a senior housing complex. Simpson school was initially occupied for decades by the Town Parks and Recreation De- partment.Whittlesey school closed in 1978. It was first leased in August 1982 by the Heritage Christian Academy, and in 1984 was purchased by Heritage. Now known as the Heritage
 Wallingford Schools 1971
  Original Year Built & Major Renovation Year
  Lyman Hall Sheehan Moran Hammarskjold Robert Earley Washington Whittlesey Simpson Yalesville Parker Farms Cook Hill Stevens Pond Hill Highland Rock Hill
1957 1971 1961 1962 1917 1957 1909 1962 1897 1962 1927 1873 1948 1955 1964 1964 1968 1959 1959
                              From 1971 through present day, no new school has been built, although many have had renovations and expansions. While Wallingford’s total population continued to grow slightly through these decades, starting in the 70s, the aver- age family size declined.
According to Gallup polling, the period of the early 1970s was the first time Americans felt two or fewer children was an ideal family size. Before this decade, over 70 percent of Americans consistently perceived the ideal family size to be three to six or more children. Starting in the 1970s, this 70 percent norm suddenly dropped to just 30 percent as the ideal family size became two or fewer children. Birth control was rapidly becoming accepted nationally and became legal in most states. In 1970, Congress passed Title X of the Public Health Service Act which provided low income individuals
Wallingford Magazine – Holiday 2020

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