Two years ago, Martin Luther King School (MLKS) parents and neighborhood residents successfully fought off an attempt to move the school out of its original building. Now many of the same people are gearing up for another fight.
On Thursday, January 17, Hartford School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Hartford School Chief Operating Officer Donald Slater presented their plan for renovating MLKS at a public meeting held at the school. The plan got a reception as chilly as the winter weather outside.
Essentially, Slater said, the plan calls for MLK?staff, teachers and students to move across the street to the old Fox Middle School at the start of the upcoming school year. This would allow students from West Middle School on Asylum Street to move into MLKS, so that renovations can be made on their school. Once the renovations are completed at West Middle, which is expected to take two years, renovations would begin at MLKS. This project is also expected to take two years. When these renovations are completed, MLKS?staff, teachers and students could finally move back into their school – after a total of four years.
Slater said there is not enough space at the old Fox Middle to accommodate West Middle School’s entire student population, which is why the school system is proposing they be moved to MLKS. He added that the school system is committed to keeping MLKS?open and the name of the school will not be changed.
MLKS is located in the former Weaver High School on Ridgefield Street. It became Martin Luther King School after Weaver was moved to Granby Street. The building was constructeded in 1922.
One parent pointed out that in 2010, when the school system wanted to close down the MLKS?building, parents were told that the age of the school had made it unsafe. But now West Middle students will be moved into the same school, which has yet to be renovated and therefore has the same problems that it did when school officials said they would have to close it down.
Most parents objected to the length of time their children would be at a temporary facility. Evelyn Kelly said her daughter is now in the third grade. If the school system’s current plan is adopted, she would not return to the MLKS?school building until she is starting the eight grade. “This is not just a building, this is our home,” she said. “This proposal sounds like we have to leave our home and let someone else move in.” She said parents want to their children to remain in their school until renovations begin. “We feel there are other options and we feel these haven’t been explored in full,” she said.
Another parent said that having MLKS?in a temporary location for four years would likely decrease enrollment, which in turn would decrease funding for the school (since money follows the student). She said, “Several years from now, who knows??The money might not be there [to open MLKS?in its original location].”
Karen Clark asked Kishimoto how many buildings does West Middle currently have. She responded that they had two separate but connected buildings. Clark then said that if West Middle uses two buildings right now, they could split their students between the old Fox Middle and MLKS. Kishimoto said, “I am willing to look at that...I will look at that based on what’s best for the kids.”
However, Kishimoto, was not as favorable to a proposal to have the students remain in the school while the renovations were underway. “If you did that with a building of this complexity, it would double the time needed for the renovation...if the price [for the MLKS renovation project] rises, the city might have second thoughts about this project.”