STRATFORD – Tears were as plentiful as smiles Thursday afternoon when officials, construction workers and Victoria Soto’s extended family held a beam signing ceremony at the school that will bear her name.
Soto, a first grade teacher, was among those killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012.
The $18 million school, built along side the Johnson House School will replace Honeyspot as part of the Stratford Academy complex. It will open in the fall of 2015. The 36,000 square foot structure will have 10 classrooms, enough for 290 kindergarten through second graders. The school will also be a model for security.
Stratford Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson, who was Newtown’s school superintendent when the shooting occurred, told the gathering she had the pleasure of hiring “Vicki.”
“Her enthusiasm was so great,” Robinson said. “It is only fitting that this school is named after such a heroic teacher.”
Mayor John Harkins called it an important day. “It is our hope that students will learn, grow and share the same passion Victoria had for education,” he said. “In the wake of tragedies, landmarks such as this school is what helps to define us as a community.”
Jillian Soto said her older sister would be very impressed to have had a school named after her, especially one that a younger brother and sister attended and that her aunt once taught in.
“Her legacy will live on as children ask some day, ‘Who was Victoria Soto?’ They will learn of her heroic effort to protect the children and her legacy to live, laugh and love,” Jillian Soto said.
Her mom, father, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins were all among those to sign the beam with messages about how much they miss her before it was hoisted to the top of the building.
“In our house we call her Queen Victoria,” Soto said later. “Now she has a street named after her, a school named after her … It’s just complete queen status to us. We will never be able to ‘up’ her. She was the leader. Even though she is gone, Vicki will always be number one.”