In the midst of New Haven’s well-publicized School Construction Program, which entails the renovation of existing schools and the creation of new “K-8” facilities all over the city, one elementary school is moving in the opposite direction.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation is set to purchase Woodward School from the city for $6 million to make way for a new bridge over the Quinnipiac River and the widening of Interstate 95 in that area.
The sale, approved by the joint Education-Finance Committee of the Board of Aldermen Wednesday night, means that the school at the corner of Woodward and Forbes Avenues will close permanently at the end of classes in June 2004. Woodward will be demolished soon after students leave for summer vacation, and the city will receive payment for the school property in July.
New Haven Controller Mark Pietrosimone, who presented the plan to the aldermen, noted that the demolition of the school has long been part of the overall scheme and that contingencies for Woodward students have been worked out. By August of 2004, both a new Fair Haven K-8 and a refurbished Nathan Hale School will open its doors in that corner of the city.
“We’re losing the Woodward School,” Pietrosimone said of the roughly 500-student facility. “But at the same time we’re gaining two brand-new schools where there never was one.”
In addition to the brand new facilities, some Woodward students will attend the “old” Betsy Ross school — the “new” Betsy Ross is on Kimberly Avenue — on Barnes Avenue, which currently houses Nathan Hale students. Others will enter the lottery for placement in one of the city’s skill-specific magnet schools.
“There won’t be any overcrowding or anything like that,” Pietrosimone said.
The plan to accommodate the children currently enrolled at Woodward fits into New Haven’s larger “swing space” arrangement, a sort of merry-go-round schematic to house students displaced as a result of the over $1.1 billion school revitalization program.
The School Construction Program was launched in 1995, and if all goes according to plan, each of New Haven’s public schools will be substantially rebuilt by 2010.
Pietrosimone said if the city had not sold the plot, the state might have invoked the right of eminent domain and seized the property.
The compensation for the school property will go toward reducing the city’s capital projects debt.
School Construction Program coordinator Susan Weisselberg said parents of affected students have expressed concern, but that the net gain in educational facilities should balance this loss.
“I think that [the parents] have been anxious about what will happen,” she said. The extension of the closing date, originally this coming June, by one year has eased tension.
“It’s better working with [the parents and students] knowing there’ll be buildings open,” Weisselberg said.
Ward 17 Alderman Matt Naclerio, who represents the area around the school, could not be reached for comment
Ward 4 Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks echoed that appraisal of public opinion.
“Everyone was very concerned when they thought that this would be it,” she said, referring to the original closing date. “But I think they feel better about it now.”
The proposal goes to the full board and city Board of Education for final approval in the next month.