When the former Memorial Boulevard Middle School closed in 2012, its new purpose was not clear. Then Mayor Art Wart (D) planned to sell the iconic school to a private investor. The goal was to turn the school into apartments.
After an outpouring of opposition, the plan was eventually tabled. Under the new leadership of former Mayor Ken Cockayne (R), selling the school was in line with the Ward administration.
However, then Councilperson Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and others fought that idea.
Zoppo-Sassu held events at the former school and secured municipal funds to start the formation of committees and a task force to tackle what properly should happen to the iconic school built by Mr. Rockwell.
During those years of continued uncertainty, Zoppo-Sassu pressed on with events to show the school can be re-used in municipal hands.
Last week State Rep. Chris Ziogas announced the House’s approval of a school construction bill containing $55 million in state funding for the renovation of Memorial Boulevard School for use as an arts and theater magnet school.
The funding represents a 68 percent rate of reimbursement for the project.
“The renovation of Memorial Boulevard School has been one of my top priorities, and the approval of this funding is a big step forward. Having an arts and theater magnet school in Bristol will provide an additional educational opportunity for our students while putting an important historic building to good use,” Rep. Ziogas said.
“The state will reimburse over two thirds of the construction costs, making this a smart fiscal move for Bristol. I’d like to thank Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and Board of Education Chairman Chris Wilson for all their work on the local level to advance this initiative.”
“This is a win-win for Bristol on many fronts,” stated Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
“There has been widespread community support for a practical re-use of this historic building since the day it closed. A performing arts magnet school will be a great asset in marketing Bristol as an attractive place to live and work. The historic theater, which is a gem, will also be a catalyst for more positive activity in the downtown area.”
“This is a great addition to the Bristol education system,” stated Board of Education Chairman Chris Wilson.
“We are thankful for Chris Ziogas for initiating the school construction grant process, for sharing the vision of the Board of Education to provide an arts themed education to our students, and for bringing the Speaker of the House to Bristol to see and ask for his support of the project.”
In January of 2017, Rep. Ziogas and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz toured Memorial Boulevard School in January along with members of the City Council and Board of Education.
The purpose of the tour was to discuss potential funding to renovate Memorial for use as an arts and theater magnet school.
In August, the Bristol Board of Education voted to file an application with the state for the creation of an arts magnet school at Memorial Boulevard School.
The arts and theater magnet school would be home to Bristol’s largest performance theater.
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