Costs for BPS school-move plan rise

May 4, 2012
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The cost to renovate the building that holds the Mission Hill K-8 School and the New Mission High School have jumped from roughly $7 million to about $12 million.

The City Council has asked the Boston Finance Commission (FinComm) to look into why the numbers have changed from when BPS presented the $7 million figure to the School Committee in November to the recent $12 million projection.

“In the grand scheme of things, $12 million or $5 million might not look like that much in the overall City budget,” said Matt Cahill, director of FinComm. “But the truth is, it is a lot of money. That’s the taxpayers’ money. I applaud the council for wanting to look into it.”

BPS Chief Communications Officer Lee McGuire said the numbers are currently being compiled to give to FinComm, but that the increase comes because BPS gave the original estimate, while the City provided the latest figures. He noted that the City’s capital budget would fund the reconstruction because the City owns the building.

Asked why the City’s figures weren’t compiled and given to the School Committee originally, McGuire replied, “That’s just the way the process works.”

The renovations are part of Boston Public Schools (BPS) school-move plan that includes moving New Mission to the old Hyde Park High School and the K-8 school to the now-vacant Agassiz School in Jamaica Plain. The K-8 school would share the building with the new bilingual Margarita Muniz Academy. The Fenway High School would take over the renovated building in Mission Hill. BPS wants to have the changes in place for the fall.

The $12 million renovation would construct a “cafetorium,” a combination of a cafeteria and auditorium, for Fenway High. Part of the school’s success is that it meets regularly as a large body so students can talk to each other, according to McGuire.

Several city councilors have requested BPL to look into having Fenway High move into the Agassiz School, which would allow the K-8 school to remain in its current place.

Lee said BPS is reviewing the proposal, but that the school-move plan does not operate in a vacuum, and changing one piece can affect the whole puzzle. He added he does not know if the Agassiz building has the large space that Fenway High requires.

Lee also said that moving Fenway to Agassiz would push the school far away from its partners in the area. One partner is Emmanuel College, where Fenway students attend classes.

Bob Goodman, a Mission Hill K-8 parent, said it’s his preference, and the broad preference of the community, for the school to remain in the current location and expand in place.

“I just feel like schools that do not wish to relocate should not be forced to do so,” he said.

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