Hill could see school shuffle


Mission Hill could lose its namesake K-8 school and New Mission High—which currently share a building at 67 Alleghany St.—and get two new schools under a “2012 Facilities Plan” announced by Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Carol Johnson last month.

BPS plans to host a community meeting to discuss the changes Sat., Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Tobin School at 40 Smith St.

The plan would have Mission Hill K-8 moving to the Agassiz School in Jamaica Plain and New Mission High School move to Hyde Park Educational Complex. In exchange, the Hill would technically end up hosting an expansion by Northeastern University. The Edward Kennedy Academy For Health Careers, a charter school run by BPS and NEU, would expand into the shuttered Farragut School Building at 10 Fenwood Road. Fenway High School would move into the Alleghany Street building.

Two Mission Hill K-8 parents the Gazette spoke to expressed mixed reactions to the proposed move—one was “optimistic” about it and one opposed. But both expressed concerns about the structural quality of the Agassiz building and the fact that the relocation would put the school in a different zone.

Local Mission Hill City Councilor Mike Ross told the Gazette he is opposed to the move because his City Council district, which also includes Fenway, the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, already has few elementary school seats.

BPS is fast-tracking the plan. Officials hope the Boston School Committee will vote on the plan at its Nov. 15 meeting, and that it will take effect next year.

At the Nov. 2 School Committee meeting, a video of which is available on the City of Boston website, one Mission Hill K-8 parent complained about the fast pace of the approval process, noting that renovation budgets and plans have not yet been finalized.

Parents and administrators from Mission Hill K-8 had mixed reactions to the prospect of moving out of the neighborhood. Mission Hill K-8 principal Ayla Gavins told the Gazette she sees it as an opportunity for the school to expand.

Mission Hill K-8 parent Valerie Madden said she sees “a lot to be gained” by the move. Another parent, Bob Goodman, said he opposes it. Both said they have a number of concerns.

Those concerns include questions about how the new space they are moving into—the Agassiz School at 20 Child St. in Jamaica Plain—will be divided up between the K-8 school and another school that is moving in, the Margarita Muñiz Academy, a new two-way bilingual high school.

Gavins told the Gazette that discussions about how the new building is divided up are ongoing. During an Oct. 26 walkthrough of the building, school administrators had said the elementary school would probably occupy the building’s ground floor—which many at the meeting complained is ill-designed and has few windows. They are now looking at moving the K-8 school into the second floor. “There are a lot of changes to be made, but that is also true of where we are now,” she said.

Parents also have lingering concerns about the Agassiz’s reputation as a leaky “sick building,” where some claimed mold issues were causing respiratory problems for teachers and students.

In response to those concerns, the city moved forward with a roof replacement project this year. The city also replaced all of the windows at the school prior to its closure last year.

“We are confident that the changes we have made responded to the concerns relative to the facility,” Johnson said in the phone conference with reporters last week.

Gavins echoed Johnson’s comments, “I have seen enough documentation that the issues have been dealt with to satisfy me,” she said. That information will also be shared with parents, she said.

Gavins, Madden and Goodman all said they hope that, as part of the move, Mission Hill K-8 can regain its status as a citywide school. The school served students from across the city until last year, when it was turned into a North Zone school to cut down on BPS transportation costs. The move would make it a West Zone School.

Gavins said making Mission K-8 a two-zone school, so the school could continue serving students from its former zone and continue relationships with non-profit partners it has worked with for years, also might be an acceptable option.

Mission Hill City Councilor Mike Ross filed a hearing order this week to discuss the Mission K-8 move, because, he said, it would mean his entire City Council District 8 would only have one elementary or K-8 school—the Tobin K-8 School on Smith Street.

Some Fenway High students are opposed to moving to the Hill. In a video of the  Nov. 2 School Committee meeting—available on the City of Boston website—numerous Fenway High students can be seen wearing “Defend Fenway” T-shirts and testified in opposition to the move to Mission Hill. “Fenway shouldn’t be in a rush to move,” one student said.

Ross told the Gazette his understanding is that New Mission High is happy with the move to Hyde Park. That school has long-outgrown it’s half of the Alleghany Street location, he said.

New Mission High School Principal Naia Wilson was not immediately available for comment.

Despite the neighborhood changes, there are currently no plans to change any of the schools’ names, Johnson said in a conference call.

The 2012 Facilities Plan calls for 10 schools to be expanded or created. The changes would provide 700 more seats at some of BPS’s highest-performing schools, according to an outline of the plan on the BPS website.

The goal is to “expand excellence throughout out the school community…Hundreds of more students will have access to high-quality programs,” Johnson said in a conference call with reporters last week.

The moves would allow Mission Hill K-8 to add a 30-student pre-kindergarten classes. It would allow New Mission High to add 140 students for a total of 400. Fenway High would add 120 seats, for a total of 440.  The Kennedy Health Careers Academy would add 175 seats, growing to 400. At that school 9th and 10th graders would have classes at the Farragut, and 11th and 12th grade classrooms would remain on the Northeastern campus. Overall, the school would expand by 175 seats to 400.


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