Public discussion – not to say outcry – has put the need to address Hartford’s under-enrolled and unsustainable schools on the front burner, but other, subtler challenges are simmering as well. The District is currently applying for State funding that, at best, will help renovate and maintain a fraction of the facilities on a long-deferred list.
The Hartford Board of Education’s School Choice and Facilities Committee this week wrestled with the fact that its 40-project list for $2 million in State Alliance Grant funding is based on a sound rubric of priorities, but reflects only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Executive Director of Facilities Claudio Bazzano Tuesday advised the committee that modifications to facilities plans over the past few years have had a fits-and-starts impact as the City and State budget spigots have been cut or shut. A long-range plan for five-to-10 schools is being developed for presentation to the Board late this year, he said, noting that the Martin Luther King, Jr. school has been on the Capital Improvement Project list since 2015, but has been on hold under dire City fiscal conditions. That’s the original Weaver HS Building.
Projects bump around according to the reimbursement rate and the City’s ability to fund them – and give a false impression of what the priorities actually are.
Here are other key points from Tuesday’s meeting:
- Re-Gifting? The PCB-afflicted Clark School, now closed, is subject under the law to be relinquished to the City and discussions for that transfer are under way, District Chief Operating Officer José Colón-Rivas explained. What might happen if the City declines to accept the gift?
- Up the Street? Plans are under way to co-locate the Capital Community College Magnet Academy (CCCMA), which has some 60 students, over at Capital Prep, a few blocks up Main Street. For next year, Grade 12 students will have the option of attending either Great Path Academy or Classical Magnet Academy. Capital Prep has room for CCCMA students – and the Board will be asked to de-magnetize it for 2018-19. The partnership with Capital Community College will continue, but may look different in the future.
- The Board’s draft policy for school closure, consolidation, and relocation is being sharpened, Board Member Karen Taylor advised – and it will now also be augmented with separate guidance on the co-location of schools. Updating policy will only be one of many steps toward building closure and school consolidations and relocations that will inevitably take us back to the world of Equity 2020. Will the second time be a charm?
The Bottom Line
There is a growing awareness in Hartford that, despite the convenience, having nearly 50 schools doesn’t make sense either qualitatively or quantitatively in today’s fiscal climate and in this geographically-small city. Now we need equal awareness of the facts that many under-enrolled facilities also urgently need renovation and that critical partnerships and assets must be preserved and protected somehow. While some building facilities are on life support (diverting necessary resources from children’s educations to temporarily fix buildings, defies logic). The comprehensive facilities plan slated for November will be crucial to the District’s future.