On the one-month anniversary of the shootings in Newtown, the Stratford Town Council voted to name a new elementary school after slain teacher Victoria Soto, who lived in the town with her family.
“I feel really happy tonight,” said Soto’s younger sister, Jillian, 24, in a Connecticut Post article. “My sister’s name will stay alive. There will be a school named after her. She was my hero, my big sister, and it doesn’t surprise me what she did.”
Soto was hailed as a hero in the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings because she shielded children in her classroom in a closet and told the gunman they were at gym. He murdered her anyway but some of the students were able to escape physical harm.
Stratford Mayor John Harkins said in a statement, “In the days since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, the stories of bravery and heroism by Stratford’s own Victoria Soto have been both heart-wrenching and abundant. She gave her life protecting children, and we must make sure her sacrifice is never forgotten. Over the last couple of weeks, I have met with Victoria’s family and discussed how the town can recognize her in a meaningful and appropriate way. Her family has shown amazing strength and resilience in remembering and honoring Victoria’s life.”
According to NBC CT, a new school building has already been approved for the site of the Honeyspot Elementary School and construction is scheduled to begin over the summer. It will open in 2014. The mayor also is hoping to build a memorial to Soto and a petition has been started to rename a local street after her.
The meeting wasn’t without controversy, in spite of the unanimous vote that eventually named the new facility “The Victoria Soto School.” The Post reported that one council member sought to include a “resolution demanding that U.S. leaders take action to reduce gun violence.” It was withdrawn after other council members said the resolution was being introduced on Soto’s memory.
“Yeah, I’m a little disappointed with the way it went,” Soto’s cousin, Jim Wiltsie, a Fairfield police office, told the CT Post. “I thought this night was supposed to be about Victoria, and then there were these other things.”
Soto graduated from Stratford High School and Eastern Connecticut State University. She was pursuing a master’s degree in special education at Southern Connecticut State University at the time of her death.
Here is an NBC CT report on the proposal to name the school after Soto: