On February 4th, Tuesday night, Wish Elementary School gymnasium in Hartford was filled with a couple hundred students, parents, and staffs from Weaver High School of Culinary Arts to protest against the Hartford Board of Education shutting down their school. However, it turned out that the Culinary Arts Institute is going to be relocated to the Lincoln Culinary Institute for four years and then moved back to the new, renovated school.
Originally, Weaver High School was built to serve up to two thousand students, but the student population has shrank drastically that there are only about six hundred students attending now. Weaver High School has been run by two different programs, the Culinary Arts Institute and the Journalism and Media Academy. The Culinary Arts Academy is offering regular high school academic curriculum and specifically focuses on culinary arts and hospitality management. According to the Hartford Public School website, about four hundred students are attending Culinary Arts Academy and two hundred students are attending Journal and Media Academy.
For the school to serve a right number of students, the city has been planning to renovate the buildings at Weaver since last year, and Hartford Public Schools was granted 100 million dollars for its renovation. The Journal and Media Academy already moved to the new building on Tower Avenue last year, and Culinary Arts Institute is the only school left at Weaver High School. If the Culinary Arts Academy stays at Weaver, the maintenance would cost more, and empty building would be wasted. In the mean time, Lincoln Culinary Institute has suggested providing their facilities to Weaver Culinary Arts so that the school can be continued without any closing.
Although the Hartford Public School and Lincoln Culinary Institute has not firmly decided the cost of lease, they are estimating 4 million dollars for four-year lease contract with Lincoln Culinary Institute including all the taxes, facilities, and maintenance.
However, on Tuesday night, there was a big miscommunication between school administrators and students from Weaver. Students and their parents had heard the rumor that the city was trying to close the school by moving them out from the original place. Several students, alumni, and parents came out and strongly voiced their opinions that the school should not be closed. Unlike students worrying about shutdown, the principal of Weaver, Tim Goodwin, was more concerned whether or not the construction would be finished on time without stopping the school. More specifically, he wanted to hear how and when students could go back to their original school. Also, he worried that splitting Weaver to two different locations will harm their identity as Weaver.
After hearing several addresses, the Board Chairman Matthew Poland pointed out the miscommunication revealed by students and administrators saying that Weaver would never close, and rather the city wanted to strengthen the school by renovation. Dr. Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent of Hartford Public School, said, “I am sorry that there was miscommunication between the school and students . . . . I want to emphasize that Weaver is not closing.” Although there was an awkward moment of silence in the entire gym when people figured out that students were misunderstanding the point of renovation, they cheered “Weaver Strong!” assuring that the school is not going to be shut down in any way. Unraveling the miscommunication and clarifying confusing points, the Board of Education approved the Weaver’s relocation to Lincoln Culinary Institute.
In addition, the Hartford’s school construction program manager answered Weaver’s principal’s question. He said that they were planning to finish renovation by the year of 2017 so that the school can start the 2017-2018 academic years at the new school building. Superintendent Dr. Kishimoto reassured, “students will be at school on time everyday.” There would be a little bit of schedule adjustment when they are relocating at the Lincoln Culinary Institute, but the summer programs and the commencement would take place as the school has set up, and transportation will be provided to those who are living far from the new location funded by the Hartford Public Schools. In terms of the principal’s identity question, the board replied that it would not cause drastic change in the school’s identity because Weaver was already separated into two different schools.
Besides the issue about Weaver high school, there was another main agenda about choosing Kinsella School’s new location, and it was discussed as much as the Weaver School’s relocation. Moverover, there were workshop sessions for the Special Education Update, 2011-2015 Strategic Operation Plan, especially focusing on Chronic Absences Plan and College Readiness Initiatives. Superintendent Dr. Kishimoto wrapped the meeting up by emphasizing that there was remarkable improvement in the last couple of years in chronic absence and college-readiness.