Hartford Residents Seek Answers About Future Of Weaver High School
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
April 18, 2013
HARTFORD — — Community advocates and residents worried about the future of Weaver High School met with school and city officials Thursday night to air their concerns.
One question stirred the crowd: Will a renovated Weaver become a regional magnet school that draws half its enrollment from the suburbs?
State Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, raised the issue and offered a challenge that elicited applause from dozens of people in the Northend Senior Center.
"Something needs to be said tonight to guarantee this community that Weaver" will not be converted to a magnet, McCrory said. "Once you go magnet... you lose your school."
The proposed $100 million Weaver renovation awaiting state approval estimates an enrollment of 1,354 students in three specialized programs. The student body at Weaver has been shrinking, however, with fewer than 500 city students attending two academies, culinary arts and journalism and media, in a 370,000-square-foot building that was meant for more than 2,000 high-schoolers.
Hartford is asking the state to cover 80 percent, or $80 million, of construction costs. McCrory, an assistant principal for a Capitol Region Education Council magnet school, noted that the state offers 95 percent reimbursement for magnet school construction.
Mayor Pedro Segarra pledged that short of a court order, "short of going to jail," Weaver would remain a city neighborhood school as long as he is mayor. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told residents to "keep voicing what you want," but did not offer a guarantee.
Voices of Women of Color, a Hartford consulting firm that focuses on social justice issues, arranged Thursday's meeting with the Blue Hills Civic Association, the Greater Hartford NAACP and the Greater Hartford African American Alliance as sponsors.
Another topic was the Culinary Arts Academy. Last month, Kishimoto recommended to a school board committee that the district close the Weaver building this summer and temporarily move the culinary arts program to the Lincoln Culinary Institute for three years.
If the state approves the renovation, students must be relocated because the school will become a "construction zone" around spring 2015, Kishimoto said. The question is whether that move happens sooner rather than later.
Kishimoto told residents Thursday that the academy will remain at the Weaver site for the 2013-14 school year, but that students must be moved by the end of 2014. The renovation should be completed in mid-2017.
Residents also questioned the recent state and city school board decision to convert the Journalism and Media Academy to a Sheff magnet school when it opens in a newly renovated Tower Avenue building this August. The academy will no longer be part of Weaver's academic programming, although students can still play Weaver sports.
Janice Flemming, CEO for Voices of Women of Color, wrote in a letter to Kishimoto that magnetizing the academy "essentially means that more than half the students will not be from the North End."
Ninety of the 180 magnet seats available for ninth-graders in 2013-14 will be reserved for suburban students to help meet the state's desegregation goals under the Sheff vs. O'Neill settlement.
Students in the neighborhood who want to attend the school will still have priority, Kishimoto said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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