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Letter to the Editor: Save the Quest Program in West Hartford

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Dear Governor, Town Council Members, Board of Ed Members, Representatives and Senator:

My name is Sandra Stanfield and I am a long time resident of West Hartford. My family came to West Hartford when I was seven and entering third grade. I am one of five siblings and my parents were drawn to West Hartford because of their public schools.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Stanfield

I moved out of West Hartford to other parts of Connecticut before my children were born, but when I was ready to have kids I moved back. I am now the parent of a seven year old and nine year old who attend Norfeldt.

My nine year old is in fourth grade and attends regular quest and math quest. His name is Simon and the quest classes are his favorite part of the day – not because they are full of games; but because this is the time of day when he can actively learn, can talk with classmates who are able to learn with him and help him grow and when he is not bored.

It is a long day from 8:30 am to 3:20 p.m. when you are nine and not as actively engaged in much of the day as others.

My son’s math teacher tells me that he will be ready for sixth grade math and/or seventh grade concepts next year in fifth grade and I wonder who will teach him this, if not for math quest. My daughter, Myra, is in second grade and she reads and does math above level. She hopes to enter the Quest program in time.

I have spent a number of hours over the past weeks conversing with other Quest parents and other quest students in Town. My child’s sentiments about the Quest part of his day are not unique to him. Quest program gives these 600 students across the town a small quantity of time in public school  when they are learning at a level that is comfortable for them, with a teacher who is capable of instructing them at their level and with peers they can learn and grow with.

While the average elementary school student has math class every day, Quest math students have math only three times a week. Three times a week these students gather and happily do math, analyze and discuss mathematical concepts. It seems almost unfathomable that the West Hartford school system would consider eliminating math from the curriculum.  Can you imagine if there was an across-the-board proposal to eliminate math from the curriculum? That is essentially what the elimination of Quest is for these students.

The Quest program or something like it has been around since I was a student here in the 1980’s. I recall a few friends of mine going up to the high school in middle school for math, and then going up for a college course in high school. Quest-type students and their families have been drawn to West Hartford for a long time. And this has been cause for celebration for the Town.

While there is stiff competition in Connecticut, everyone knows West Hartford for one of the towns with the best schools.  It is newsworthy every year when U.S. News and World Reports come out, to show the West Hartford school system/Hall/Conard as a top candidate. It is with pride that the local papers publish senior college acceptances, with kids from West Hartford going to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, MIT and the like. Is it even a question that it is the Quest programs that are helping elevate West Hartford to these heights?

If the impetus to draw families with school age children is removed, who will be flocking to West Hartford to foot the hefty property tax bills – higher than Simsbury, Glastonbury and South Windsor?

While the Quest program is a costly budget item, the good that it produces must be seriously reviewed and considered. This program helps make West Hartford West Hartford. It elevates the school system here and on a more personal level, it is a program that puts gifted and talented kids in touch with the wind beneath their wings – these are our future scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, and philanthropists. They will add to our society and world and help tomorrow’s world. These kids are our chance at solving climate issues and curing cancer. There is no doubt that this investment will pay off within West Hartford and globally.

As our elected officials, it is your responsibility, duty and privilege to keep the Quest program moving forward in West Hartford. An elimination of this program is myopic and will lead to the slow erosion of this town, its school system and the quality of the residents who choose to live here. Preserving this program and finding a way to carry it forward will keep West Hartford West Hartford, a beacon to families seeking an amazing public education.

Lastly, I leave you with the attached poster that my son and some of his Quest friends created to hold at the upcoming hearings.  I think that it speaks volumes.

Longtime Resident
Sandra Stanfield

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  • Do not cut Quest or all-day kindergarten, nor music/art at the schools. Ditto for dial-a-ride, police and fire/paramedic personnel and their overtime, we need them. There are many positions and programs at the municipality and library that can be cut and we’d be better off, very overstaffed. Don’t take away the programs that help the more vulnerable or keep us safe. You say you want a diverse community, so don’t punish them for coming here and believing in you. Take an ax to the overgrown budgets that could use a haircut.

  • This is a great article!! My son is in Quest at KP and was in it at Aiken and he will be devastated if it goes away:(

  • I was in the WH quest program in the 1980s (it was called project challenge then), and I found it to be far superior to the current program. While I would like to see the old program come back, I would not be sorry to see the new program go. I do agree however that more rigorous maths should be taught to all students who will benefit. Perhaps this could be achieved by classroom/teacher coordination for a set time in the day that allows students to separate out and gather with a certain teacher for math based on ability. This was done in my KP 4-5 grade combined classroom and combined 6th grade classrooms for math instruction.) It is a no cost solution that provides daily math instruction.

  • I am I current college student from West Hartford and without the QuEST program I would not have found the motivation to succeed in school. As a future educator I’ve learned Gifted students don’t succeed in normal classrooms because they get bored. We need the program to allow all students to succeed regardless of how they learn.

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