Thomas J. Quirk Middle School
By Bryan Mucke and Carol Correa de Best
Arsenal Middle School underwent major renovations and was renamed Thomas J. Quirk Middle School. The structure sits in Hartford’s Clay Arsenal neighborhood just northwest of downtown Hartford, on 85 Edwards St. It continues to rest on its original site, which is two blocks west of the section where Albany Ave. and Main St. intersect. The building is a public middle school and is part of the Hartford Public School System that educates 7th and 8th grades and has approximately 700 students enrolled.
The school is a standard red brick building that stands roughly three stories high with virtually no windows. The space is composed of two structures that are connected by a series of catwalks. Although the building dates back to 1970’s it appears to be in good condition. The architectural style of the building is modern curves of classic red brick follows the theme of brick laying masonry that the Clay Hill neighborhood is known for. The interior plans of the building are not readily available and access to the interior is only granted to the public by first visiting the Main office.
Facing the front façade of the school, the section of the building on the right contains the traditional academic classrooms. The building to the left houses the extracurricular activities such as art and gym and the central office. Currently, the left side of the school houses a Hartford High School program for children who cannot be part of a traditional high school education program and setting because of special social or educational needs.
The building design gives off a feel of protection. The courtyard created between the two buildings acts as a common space and entrance. The center courtyard includes sitting areas and doorways leading into and out of the school. The structure is a fortress for learning, as it is separated from the parking area by a large fence. There, a stern security guard comes to greet you. Behind the school building is a large field that before Lozada Park was the only open space for children of the neighborhood to play; it is currently being used for school activities and sports. The front area of the school is a parking lot and the space used for buses to pick and drop off eager teenagers.
Due to the fact that the school is right where the metropolitan part of the city transitions into residential area, it is central to the community and it offers its public space to the people. The buildings surrounding the school are residential and appear to be built in the same era. Upon further examining the neighborhood, one can almost understand why the school is such an unwelcoming fortress and that fencing and security guards might be needed to protect the students and the school. Many of the buildings in close proximity and the neighborhood of the school are abandoned, falling down, and tagged with graffiti. As Clay Hill is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, it is assumed that protecting our children is a major priority.
From the moment Puerto Ricans began to settle in Clay Hill they have been sending their children to ‘Quirk Middle’ School. Dating back to the 1970’s Quirk Middle was predominantly Puerto Rican and Black. Many of today’s well known community leaders attended Quirk Middle. Today it continues to serve a large number of Puerto Rican students, and continues to offer services to bilingual students; special needs students with a continuum of services; as well as a College Prep Program that offers students the opportunity to participate in a World Language Program (Spanish). The College Prep Program also offers Algebra to grade eight students. The school is currently using block scheduling in order to provide quality instruction. The wide variety of programs that speak to a diversity of student needs prevents many of the negative effects that migrants/immigrants and other non-traditional students experience.
The school is in session from 8:15 – 2:40 Monday through Friday during the academic school year. After school hours are 3:00-6:00.