Students and staff of Dwight School on Wethersfield Avenue have always been proud to say that their school building is the oldest in the city still being used as a school. The school was built in 1885. A large extension was added in 1901.
Now Dwight’s age may be the cause of its demise. Dwight has been slated for closure by the Facility Management Plan adopted by the Board of Education in a split vote last year.
David Medina, a spokesman for the Hartford School said Dwight, “is very old and not up to current school building standards. The cost to restore the building is prohibitively expensive and funds for such a restoration are not available.”
But many Dwight parents and students are not happy with the decision and made their voices heard at the Board of Education’s last meeting on Tuesday, February 23.
“Dwight is the best school I ever went to,” said Dwight student Yairiahna Perez, who has also attended Maria Sanchez and Kennelly schools. She also sang the school’s anthem for board members.
Dwight parent Dorothy Quinones said the school’s test scores had been on the rise and praised the school’s staff, from the principal to the security guards. “It’s not just a school, it’s a community,” she said.
But Hartford School Superintendent Steven Adamowski said Dwight had to be closed due to the age of the building. “It doesn’t meet the fire code...the footprint [of the property] is too small...it’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of safety,” he said, but added that he and the school system’s administration were, “most proud of the performance of Dwight...we hope that the new K-8 school at Bellizzi [Middle School] will reflect the values of Dwight.” Bellizzi is being phased out as a middle school to make way for the new Dwight-Bellizzi Asian Studies Academy.
However, School Board member Luis Davila said there were options to closing Dwight down, although he did not elaborate on what those options were at last Tuesday’s meeting. Davila could not be reached for comment.
Another Dwight parent, Lucy Lebron, said she wants to know what those options are and thinks all parents should be fully involved in planning Dwight’s future. “If the board and the administration want our support, they have to involve us in the process,” she said.
Lebron said parents received a notice about Dwight students being transferred to the Asian Studies Academy at Bellizzi, but there was very little background information. “For such a big change, it seemed like a pretty small amount of information,” she said.
Lebron added that she hopes the possible closing of Dwight will become a catalyst for increased parental involvement. “Parents can’t wait to be included, I’ve discovered. We have to push our way in,” she said.
The proposed Asian Studies Academy will be a Pre K-8 school offering students the opportunity to study the Mandarin language and explore Asian culture. It will serve as one of two feeder schools for the prospective Hartford Public High School Advanced World Languages Academy.