Weaver High is back in the spotlight next week, and the timing couldn’t be better.
On Monday April 3rd, the District will host a community forum on Weaver High School construction, offering the latest opportunity for community residents and North End families to hear updates on construction plans for the new Weaver High. Anchored by a presentation given by construction company Arcadis, the community forum also will feature presentations by District leadership and community partners jointly leading the redesign process.
But we have been here before with Weaver… and it didn’t go so well the first time.
Weaver Déjà Vu?
The project to redesign and reopen Weaver High has been a long-delayed and, dare we say, “deferred dream” for a high-functioning and fully-resourced neighborhood high school in Hartford’s North End. Redesign delays, inadequate community engagement and alignment of needs and other factors have pushed construction back by years. This has frustrated and disillusioned a large and powerful base of Weaver alumni and feeder school communities hoping to join the historic and illustrious Weaver alumni family.
All the while, as made clear in the debacle of the Equity 2020 process, clusters of community feeder schools in the North End of Hartford have been starved of resources and de-prioritized support. This has left student outcomes to suffer, wraparound support to languish and enrollment to continuously decline – further imperiling the survival of treasured neighborhood schools as community hubs. The North End community has been asked time and time again (for years now) to be patient … and trust that improvements will come with not much firm information to justify such trust.
A New Hope for Hartford
Despite past failures and trust issues, there is cautious optimism that this time might be different.
And with the recent restart of the Weaver High redesign process, things can be different.
A diverse and very engaged set of community stakeholders from across the city, including Weaver Steering Committee Co-chair Vicki Gallon-Clark from Blue Hills Civic Association, have been invited by the District to co-lead the process. Additionally, each of the four Weaver Committee Work Groups (Construction, Student Experience, School Culture, and Family & Community Engagement) will be co-chaired by a resident and community leader, providing a broader and deeper commitment to shared leadership, in an effort to ensure that community voices won’t be stifled like they were when Equity 2020 stumbled.
And why does Weaver matter so much? Weaver is more than a building. Weaver High shines as a bright symbol of hope for the North End, and making sure this light is not dimmed offers HPS a more than symbolic opportunity to signal District leaders have learned from past failures and missteps.
The Bottom Line
Clearly, the current phase of the Weaver project is about much more than the end goal of constructing a new building: Weaver stands as a symbol of hope, opportunity, community, and success for Hartford (not just the North End). Moreover, Weaver offers an opportunity for new leadership in the District to signal that a new day in Hartford has come – a day where we can all come together and design something that will rival the quality of education elsewhere in our region.
In many ways, a new day is here. Internally, HPS will have two new leaders at the top, with the upcoming selection of a new superintendent (Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez or Mr. Tim Sullivan) and the recent election of a new board chair (elected member Mr. Craig Stallings).
Together, our city’s top education leaders have an opportunity to bring a true shift toward prioritizing the needs of students to show that we – as a city-wide community – are prepared to tackle the deep challenges facing us head-on and to plan and operationalize a strategy for success.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be keeping a spotlight on Weaver, bringing to you many different community, educator, and city leadership perspectives on why Weaver matters. In the meantime, please attend Monday’s upcoming community forum on Weaver.