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Board to Vote on Weaver Next Year

Vote Set After Mayor Segarra's Appointees Take Office

Vanessa De La Torre

December 13, 2011

The board of education is expected to vote on the proposed Weaver High School renovation in February after Mayor Pedro Segarra has appointed a potentially new majority to the board.

Under the city charter, Segarra has the power to choose five members of the nine-person board, and he is asking residents to submit resumes by Dec. 30. Segarra's appointees would begin their four-year terms Feb. 1.

The school system's timetable for the Weaver proposal calls for a board vote on Feb. 21. If the city council also approves the renovation as part of Segarra's budget that spring, the board would then submit an application to the state for a school construction grant by June 30. The project would rely heavily on state funding.

After initially estimating a $150 million overhaul of Weaver a year ago, school officials now say it could cost $127 million to renovate the Granby Street building "as new" by summer 2016.

Jack Butkus, the city's school construction director, said that planners are trying to lower that estimate to $100 million.

School officials want construction to begin in July 2014. The plan is to fit 1,600 students in three specialized, "early college" academies: a 400-student culinary arts and hospitality school; a 600-student architecture and urban design academy that is associated with the University of Hartford and has an emphasis on math, science and engineering; and a 600-student arts and sciences academy that is based on the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy school design.

Segarra has offered his support for a Weaver renovation over the past year but has stressed a need for community suggestions. After the original Weaver proposal last December drew criticism from some North End residents, then-Superintendent Steven Adamowski halted the project to gain more neighborhood backing.

The Blue Hills Civic Association formed a community group called the North Hartford Education Task Force that surveyed residents in the area, and the school system created a steering committee that submitted recommendations for the new proposal in October. The 22 committee members included school administrators, parents, teachers, students and Blue Hills leaders.

"The mayor appreciates that the board relied on input from the Weaver advisory committee," said Andrea Comer, Segarra's spokeswoman. Comer, a former school board member, sat on the steering committee as chairwoman of the North Hartford Education Task Force.

As for applicants seeking a spot on the school board, Segarra won't choose them based on their support for the Weaver renovation, Comer said. "His appointments would not be contingent upon their opinions" on the proposal.

Any renovation would keep the Weaver name and existing pool, field house and auditorium, school administrators said. One "hypothetical" layout would reduce the main five-story building, which already includes a culinary arts academy, to a light-filled, four-story structure.

The nearly windowless Weaver was constructed in 1974. The total renovated square feet would be 280,000.

The five board appointees whose terms are expiring are Vice Chairwoman Pamela Richmond; Secretary Sharon Patterson-Stallings; Ada Miranda; Israel Flores; and Chairman David MacDonald, who was elected to the city council. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wants Segarra to return as many sitting members as possible to the board, but the mayor has said he wants a full pool of candidates.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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