Hartford School Board Adopts $127 Million Plan To Renovate Weaver High
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
March 20, 2012
HARTFORD — — The school board on Tuesday night unanimously adopted a $127 million plan to renovate Weaver High School, the first approval needed to overhaul the Granby Street building by summer 2016.
Under the plan, Weaver would enroll 1,600 students in three specialized academies: the culinary arts, architecture and urban design, and the arts and sciences, which would include the University of Hartford as a partner. The school system wants to break ground in mid-2014.
The city council would have to approve the renovation as part of Hartford's capital improvement budget. That vote could happen in May, Mayor Pedro Segarra said. If the council also supports the plan, the school system would apply to the state for school construction money — specifically, 80 percent reimbursement of costs.
The state is requiring Hartford to complete an extensive enrollment study this spring before submitting its application. Chief Operating Officer Victor De La Paz said the school system has hired the firm Milone & MacBroom for the job.
Currently, Weaver has only 552 students in two academies: culinary arts, Weaver's anchor, and journalism and media. In utility costs alone, De La Paz said, the school system pays $1.2 million a year for the 370,000-square-foot building, which would be carved down to 280,000 square feet in the proposal.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto expects the Culinary Arts Academy to enroll 400 students after a renovation, up from roughly 260. The other two academies would enroll 600 students each. The Journalism and Media Academy is scheduled to move to a new home on Tower Avenue next year.
Administrators recently estimated that 21,349 students attend city schools, down 4.2 percent from five years ago. Last academic year, about 2,000 Hartford residents attended a high school outside the school system. School and community leaders hope a revitalized Weaver would attract many of those students.
Weaver, founded in 1923 on Ridgefield Street, moved to the Granby Street building in 1974. Administrators first proposed renovating the struggling school in late 2010, but then sought input from a steering committee that included parents, teachers, administrators and Blue Hills leaders. The group made recommendations last fall.
Administrators and parents applauded after the board's approval Tuesday in the Classical Magnet School cafeteria. Earlier in the meeting, however, came a moment of silence.
A somber Kishimoto said an 11th-grade culinary arts student died over the weekend. Few details were available late Tuesday, although schools spokesman David Medina said the boy was killed in a car accident and that grief counseling has been offered at Weaver.
"We're working very closely with that family to provide support," Kishimoto said. "This has touched all of us."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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