Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Stonington Board of Education:
“Peace begins with you.”
That was the motto that came flooding back to me as I walked the halls of West Broad Street School with my mom during the open house before they close it for renovations and decide its new purpose. I loved attending WBSS in third and fourth grade from 2002 to 2004, and it was great to be able to have my twin sister learning and mom teaching in the same school as me at the same time! It was fun to talk about memories with my mom as we toured the school — such as the one and only time I got called to the principal’s office with my twin and best friend. Our principal, Mrs. Jordan, was all about “Peace begins with you” and infused it into the very fabric of WBSS. It was everywhere.
I think Stonington could be reminded of that today. Yes, I am sad that both of downtown Pawcatuck’s public schools are closing this year, but that doesn’t mean the heart of our town has stopped beating.
My hope is that as our town transitions to having a combined middle school, we will have an even more unified community than we already do. I hope teachers, parents, and students listen to and consider others’ opinions with a soft heart. See, I believe most of the community is beyond the whole “Pawcatuck-Mystic rivalry” thing. My first-grade teacher at West Vine, Mrs. Hetu, had us pen pal with another class at Deans Mill. My pen pal, Alexis Baker, ended up playing softball with me that year at the Pawcatuck Little League and we became great friends all through Little League and high school sports. I played softball with many other Mystic kids at the Little League, I sang with Mystic’s Select Choir with Mrs. Gilbert when I was in middle school, and I did ballet with Mystic kids at the COMO as a child. I had so many friends from Mystic by the time that I got to high school and had classes with them.
I think what Pawcatuck residents are concerned about is not having a voice and losing what makes our piece of town so special. What seemingly little we have is getting smaller by the closings of Pawcatuck Middle and WBSS, but regional demographics change, and I understand that Stonington Public Schools’ structure has to change along with it.
It would be awesome to see WBSS be turned into a hangout spot for residents that is owned by the town. The building could be a coffee shop, town history museum, art showcase, and event space. Keep the playground as is for the community. And part of the back field could be sold to the Stonington residents who plan to create the life-skills program services for adults with disabilities to be used as a group home or a place for family respite. It would give parents a break from caring for their child and teach the participants even more about independence. Or the field area and basketball courts could be used as outdoor patio space for the coffee shop and event space. I could really see this piece of town property help create even more community among Pawcatuck residents. As a teenager, I often had to go to either Westerly or Mystic to hang out with friends, but it would be great to have a place in town to hang out and celebrate our town’s history, culture, and community.
At the end of the day, it’s the people in town that matter. It’s the teachers who take apart lawn mowers with you, lunch aides who care about how your day is going, custodians who balance mops on their nose, librarians who help you find the perfect book, coaches who teach you important lessons about the game that relate to real life, friend’s parents who treat you as their own, and the elderly neighbor who never fails to smile and wave. Please give them a place to take pride in and interact with one another in our heart of Pawcatuck. Please put a lot of thought into the future of this beautiful landmark.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my thoughts as well as other residents’. It means a lot to me as someone who grew up loving Pawcatuck and my time in its public schools.
Lake Grove, N.Y.