Renovation Plan For Hartford's Weaver High School Awaits State Approval
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
February 20, 2013
HARTFORD —— A $100 million proposal to renovate Weaver High School by fall 2017 is awaiting state legislative approval that school administrators hope could come in late spring, which would keep the project on track.
Hartford has applied for a state grant that would award 80 percent reimbursement to overhaul the prison-like, low-performing North End school into a campus with three career-oriented academies focused on hospitality and tourism, the arts and sciences, and architecture and urban design.
The University of Hartford would be a major partner in developing the latter two academies. Weaver's target enrollment would be 1,354 students in grades 9 to 12, including some residents from nearby towns who could apply through the state's Open Choice desegregation program.
If state lawmakers commit to the project — possibly deciding in May or June — the school system would begin a yearlong design process in August, administrators said. After bidding, construction could start in spring 2015 and take about two years.
"We're in the waiting impatiently mode," said Jack Butkus, director of Hartford's school construction program. The school system submitted its grant application last June after receiving school board and city council approval.
The Weaver plan is one of 27 projects on a school construction priority list that the state authorized for 2013 consideration. They total $510 million in estimated grants.
While "priority" proposals have historically been approved, Butkus said, he acknowledged the state's financial difficulties and said, "You don't want to be the first guy on the block to be rejected."
State Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, vice chairman of the legislature's education committee, said Wednesday he was "cautiously optimistic" that fellow lawmakers would approve the funding. The deteriorated school, near the University of Hartford, has been a source of pain in the Blue Hills neighborhood he represents.
"It looks really bad right now," said McCrory, a former Weaver administrator. "However, it can be resurrected into something that's state-of-the-art that can attract students from all over."
The 370,000-square-foot, nearly windowless building on Granby Street — built for more than 2,000 students in the 1970s, but now down to 558 students in two academies — would shrink under Hartford's plan.
Originally, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto envisioned 1,600 students in a 280,000-square-foot, light-filled space. After a state-mandated demographic study released last May projected that Weaver would peak at 1,354 students in the 2019-20 school year, Hartford trimmed the size of its plan to 243,675 square feet.
The auditorium, according to a district summary, "will be completely renovated." A new roof is also among the listed improvements.
School officials are discussing relinquishing control of Weaver's field house and swimming pool to the city for community recreation, although students would still use the facilities for school and athletic events.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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