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Hartford School Board To Vote On $127M Weaver High Renovation

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

February 22, 2012

HARTFORD A $127 million proposal to renovate Weaver High School has been presented to the board of education for approval, the first major step in a long road to overhaul the North End building by summer 2016.

This week, school administrators gave the board an outline of the proposed school programs at Weaver. The vote would happen at the board's next regular meeting on March 20.

If the project gets board approval, then city council support in late May as part of Hartford's capital improvement budget, the board would submit an application to the state for school construction money. The school system wants to break ground in summer 2014 and is seeking 80 percent reimbursement.

Chief Operating Officer Victor De La Paz said the state is requiring Hartford to complete a "rigorous" enrollment study before applying for funds. An estimated 21,349 students attend city schools, down 4.2 percent from five years ago, according to initial data. In the 2010-11 year, about 2,000 Hartford residents attended a high school outside the school system.

The proposal calls for a 1,600-student, multi-story Weaver High with three specialized academies: arts and sciences, architecture and urban design, and the culinary arts. The school's existing culinary arts academy has 261 students; a renovation would push the target enrollment to 400. The other two academies would enroll 600 students each.

Architectural renderings have not yet been offered, but school administrators say they want to carve Weaver from 370,000 square-feet down to 280,000, with an emphasis on natural light. The pool, field house and auditorium would remain.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has framed the overhaul as necessary to keep students in Hartford and raise achievement through an "early college" model. Students from any part of the city can apply for a seat at Weaver.

After decades on Ridgefield Street, a new, nearly windowless Weaver opened on Granby Street in 1974. The style has been compared to a prison, and a drop in its image mirrored test scores. Weaver is one of the lowest-performing schools in Connecticut.

An original proposal in Dec. 2010 to renovate Weaver was delayed after residents criticized the lack of community involvement. The Blue Hills Civic Association then formed the North End Education Task Force to survey the neighborhood, and the school system created a Weaver steering committee that included parents, teachers, administrators and Blue Hills leaders.

The committee submitted its recommendations last fall. Many are included in the current proposal to board members, who have nearly a month to mull it over.

State Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, a committee member, is adamant for the renovation to move forward.

"It just needs to be done," he said. "Period."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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