The star-crossed Weaver High School building on Granby Street is in dire condition, worse than any other school in the city. What an opportunity.
Superintendent Steven Adamowski has named a new Weaver renovation steering committee. The group of school employees, parents, students and community members will begin meeting in June to develop plans for renovating the struggling school in the city's Blue Hills neighborhood by 2016. The first question it must answer is whether the school needs to be replaced at all. A lot of schools have been built in Hartford. In two years, the Weaver student body is expected to drop to 400. The cost of a replacement is likely to be north of $100 million, and the taxpayers can't fund these forever. The land-poor city has given up a lot of otherwise taxable property for schools.
What might make a new school necessary is the lowered dropout rate. Mr. Adamowski said the city was able to get by with three comprehensive high schools because about two-thirds of students dropped out. But the graduation rate has improved by 23 percent in the past five years. If that trend continues, the city will need the space. Three 400-student schools, or their equivalent, will be needed, Mr. Adamowski said.
There is some sentiment in Blue Hills to change Weaver into a neighborhood K-12 school. That's an option.
The Weaver property adjoins the University of Hartford. Whatever school goes there ought to benefit from this proximity. Could city schools with themes in business, the arts or education partner with their disciplinary equivalents at the university?
Weaver is also close to two aging housing projects, Bowles Park and Westbrook Village. City leaders have been talking for years about renovating the projects, with Westbrook becoming a mixed-use "university village" of current residents and people connected with the school. Could Weaver be part of such a plan?
If that is beyond the realm of the possible, what about housing on the Weaver campus, which at 26 acres is the board of education's largest school site? The school's pool, track and tennis courts would be a draw for residents.
The current building seemed snake-bitten from day one. It's a drab bunker-like structure with few windows and periodically challenged mechanical systems. It's hard to tell where the door is. In the 1980s, it had to be shored up because it was sinking into the ground. It's time to replace or rebuild it, and a chance to do so imaginatively.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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