Since it first opened in 1922, Weaver High School has been a mirror and a source of pride for Hartford’s North End. But Weaver is now divided into the Culinary Arts Academy and the Journalism and Media Academy (JMA), and enrollment has declined to just 500 students.
The current Weaver High School, which was designed for approximately 2,000 students when it was built, is slated for a $100 million renovation, which is scheduled to start in May, 2015.
According to School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, the new Weaver High School will be designed for 1,354 students and will serve as a campus for three academies: Hospitality and Tourism; Arts and
Sciences; and Architecture and Urban Design. The JMA will move to a renovated facility on Barbour Street at the start of the upcoming school year. In addition, the State Department of Education recently approved it as a magnet school.
The conversion of JMA into a magnet school, which draws from the region rather than a specific area of the city, was a catalyst in raising concerns among city residents that all of Weaver might become a magnet school and thereby lose its unique character and identity.
These concerns led to a community meeting last Thursday, April 18, at the Northend Senior Center, hosted by the Voices of Women of Color. State Representative Douglas McCrory, who served in the Hartford school system for almost two decades and is now a vice-principal with the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), said, “I’m concerned that the [Journalism and] Media Academy will become a magnet school. That concerns me. We thought it would be a neighborhood school, and now it’s for, well, for who?”
Other residents expressed concerns that Weaver’s athletic program, once one of the strongest in the state, would decline as a result of the school’s ongoing reorganization and upcoming renovation.
Kishimoto said, “It is up to the community to maintain pressure for what you want at Board of Education meetings and City Council meetings.”
Mayor Pedro Segarra, who also spoke at the meeting, said, “I know Weaver represents a lot to the community. As long as I am mayor, and unless a court orders me to something different, I will support Weaver in its traditional role, run by the Hartford Board of Education and the City of Hartford.”