Addition, kitchen concerns in Fenway High plan

By Ryan Deto/Special to the Gazette

The lack of a full-service kitchen in the new Fenway High School emerged as a concern for residents and the school alike in a March 26 City meeting about a large addition to its future home at 67 Alleghany St. It also was announced that the school’s move to Mission Hill from its current place next to Fenway Park has been delayed until 2014.

The school is worried about student nutrition, and residents expressed concerns about possible noise, litter and safety issues with students seeking lunch outside the building.

“A full-service kitchen is a major concern for us,” said Fenway High headmaster Dr. Peggy Kemp at the meeting at the Tobin Community Center. “We were promised we would not lose any services when we moved…We hope whoever is funding the project reconsiders.”

The addition that will contain the school’s “cafetorium,” or combined auditorium and partial kitchen, also remains a concern. It will push the school’s back wall about 20 feet closer to abutting neighbors.

“We feel the proposed addition is slated for the least favorable position and that community input earlier would have allowed for further discussion and a more equitable product,” abutter Bob Francey told the Gazette after the meeting.

The meeting was held by architects from the City’s Property & Construction Management Department, who could not address major changes. No Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials were present, and a BPS spokesperson did not respond to later Gazette questions about the kitchen issue.

As part of a BPS building shuffle, Fenway High is slated to move into the empty former home of New Mission High School and the Mission Hill K-8 School. The move originally was slated for this fall, a year-long delay to renovate the building, but that move now will happen in fall 2014, PCMD officials said. As another wrinkle, the cafetorium is slated to be finished in November 2014, a couple of months into the school year.

The building renovation plans were well-known, but the addition was not until neighbors recently noticed construction preparation work under way. City officials met privately with abutters several weeks ago, but the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services arranged the March 26 community meeting for a full airing of the issues.

Residents at the meeting made it clear they welcome Fenway High’s arrival, but not necessarily the addition looming over Delle Avenue homes. PCMD officials said shadow and sun reflection impacts were addressed in the design, including a roof that will tilt toward the main building to redirect glare. Some residents, including Francey, later said it still makes more sense to put the addition on another side of the building.

Inside the addition, the cafetorium will include only a “servery,” or partial kitchen, not a full kitchen. That essentially means that many students will have to bring lunch or go to local restaurants. It is unclear when Fenway High officials learned of that move, but headmaster Kemp was among those unhappy.

Kemp said that 69 percent of Fenway High’s students rely on free or reduced-cost lunches, which would be difficult to provide without a full-service kitchen. She also said she wants to promote healthy eating, but can’t offer nutrition classes or partner with organizations that encourage good nutrition without a full-service kitchen.

Kemp said that a full kitchen was in the original renovation feasibility study and that the school got a quote last year of $700,000 to $1 million to build such a kitchen.

PCMD deputy director Joe Mulligan said he was not instructed to include a full-service kitchen in the designs and that the BPS has to weigh the cost and benefits of the project before deciding to add a kitchen.

Several residents, including Michael Jauquet, expressed concerns about lunchtime students possibly creating litter, traffic or other impacts on the residential neighborhood.

Stephanie Jones, a Mission Hill resident and parent of a Fenway High student, said is concern about the safety of students roaming the neighborhood for lunch and said a full-service kitchen should be part of a serious investment in the new Fenway High.

A follow-up meeting is planned in about six to eight weeks, but it appears that no significant changes will be made barring new design funding from the City or BPS.

John Ruch contributed to this article.

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