Designing a school: Programming committee begins to decide on courses for Memorial Boulevard magnet school

Published on Sunday, 10 February 2019 20:21


BRISTOL - The programming committee for the planned Memorial Boulevard Intra-District Arts Magnet School has been meeting with the architect to get a preliminary idea of how the school will be laid out.

At a recent Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Susan Moreau said the teachers and administrators who make up the committee aren’t at the point of deciding “what will be taught on a day-to-day basis.”

“At the beginning of a project we work with architects so they know what rooms need to be built into the school,” she said. “For example, when the decision was made for the high school students [who would attend the magnet school] to get core subjects at their home high school, that took 12 classrooms out of what we would need, which would allow for larger spaces for other parts of the program.”

The city and school board are collaborating on the project to transform the old Memorial Boulevard School into a arts magnet school for grades six through 12. The architect, Farmington-based Quisenberry Arcari Malik LLC, has estimated the new school could be open by August of 2022.

The programming committee has previously decided the high school students who attend the arts magnet school will continue to get their core subjects at their regular high school, in a model similar to Bristol Technical Education Center.

The magnet school isn’t meant to be a performance school, Moreau said. “A lot of the negative feedback we got was that we were going to ruin the theater programs, the music programs, the art programs. That really isn’t what this school is all about.”

The committee is looking at having course pathways that would allow students to concentrate on studying creative construction; visual arts; musical arts; television video and theatrics; entertainment sports; events management; advertising, marketing, and communications; and “possibly a culinary and food service entrepreneurship” pathway, she said.

“What we’re talking about is what happens behind the curtain,” Moreau explained. “When you think about going to a theater and seeing a performance, there is a hospitality section where you might get food. Someone is deciding what to serve there and at what cost. And then the publicity that goes out to put on a performance is a whole other whole line of work that adults do in that industry.”

The architects need to hear about these ideas to be able to think about how to construct the spaces inside the school, she said. “Eventually programming will mean curriculum development, which will come much further down the line.”

Michael Dietter, school district director of special services, who also chairs the project’s building committee, said the architect has provided his committee with some exterior mockups and interior floor planning options.

“I stress that all of these things that are being shared are very preliminary and are intended to create some conversation and feedback and input from the multiple individuals on both this committee as well as the programming committee,” he said.

The building committee has previously chosen a joint venture between Downes Construction Co. and D’Amato Construction Co. to renovate the old school.

Memorial Boulevard was the city’s high school when it opened in 1922. In 1967, it became a junior high school and then a middle school, until it closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year, as part of a major redistricting in which five aged schools were closed and two large new ones opened.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 10 February 2019 20:21. Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2019 20:23.