Every member of the Planning and Zoning Commission voted against the zone change that would have made possible an expansion of the CREC-run Museum Academy Magnet School located on the former Hartford College for Women site.
On March 21st, the Executive Board of the West End Civic Association had voted in favor of this expansion, despite a number of NIMBY arguments posed by residents around the campus. This vote in itself presented some controversy, as the motion came with strings attached. Of these conditions, one in particular did not sit well with all in the community:
Offer the neighborhood preference indefinitely for the Museum Academy and the University of Hartford Magnet School, and enroll 100 students at each school (200 total) from the West End
This item raised questions about whether or not such a requirement would violate the Sheff v. O’Neill ruling that requires the integration of students who would otherwise be racially and economically segregated.
In a letter to Mayor Segarra, City Council, and a number of others, Joshua Hall, a resident of the Blue Hills neighborhood, called these conditions placed on CREC by WECA deal brokering. In his email sent on Monday, Hall writes:
The email [sent from the President of WECA] indicates that a deal has been brokered between CREC and WECA to allow the construction/renovation of CREC’s Museum Academy School. In reading the email it seems that there were/are West End Neighborhood residents who are deeply concerned about the construction/renovation proposal of CREC and its impact on their neighborhood. According to the email CREC has agreed to several demands made by WECA. The one that most concerns me and should concern all of you is , “That CREC offer the neighborhood preference indefinitely for the Museum Academy and the University of Hartford Magnet School, and enroll 100 students at each school (200 total) from the West End.” After inquiring, I did discover that CREC does have a neighborhood preference policy (1/2 mile radius from the school). However, per the agreement CREC will be giving WECA an exception to their policy. One could understand this applying to the Museum Academy because of its location, however, it is ludicrous for it to include the University of Hartford Magnet School. To give the West End neighborhood preference for a school on the University of Hartford’s Campus (many folks believe to be in the Blue Hills neighborhood) doesn’t make sense. It stands to reason that, had Elizabeth Horton Sheff still lived in Westbrook Village (in the Blue Hills Neighborhood) that her children would not be eligible to go the University of Hartford Magnet School. What most don’t understand is that only about 100 new students get in to each school per year, so this deal effectively shuts out every other student in the city especially those in the Blue Hills Neighborhood.
I have emailed both State and local officials because this issue involves an organization that receives the majority of its funding from the state and a local non-profit/neighborhood organization that should not be allowed to negotiate any deal that negatively impacts another neighborhood.
Although Hall is First Vice President of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, he says he is speaking only in his capacity as a resident of the Blue Hills neighborhood.
The Blue Hills neighborhood is considered to be located north of Albany Avenue and east of Bloomfield Avenue; the West End is considered to be west of Bloomfield Avenue and south of Albany Avenue. Using these guidelines, the University of Hartford Magnet School is within the Blue Hills neighborhood and the Museum Academy Magnet School is in the West End.
According to Amy Bergquist, The PZC vote was said to not consider school slots, only the impact of expansion on surrounding residents.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.