A $1.4 million new roof for the soon-to-close Louis Agassiz School at 20 Child St. is the biggest-ticket capital improvement coming to Jamaica Plain this year in the mayor’s proposed 2012 capital budget.
The work is scheduled to take place this summer, displacing a Boston Center for Youth and Families (BCYF) community center that that runs out of the school. BCYF officials have long planned to close the community center, but previously told the Gazette they would not shut it down until Curtis Hall—a larger community center at 50 South St.—reopens this fall.
City Councilor Matt O’Malley told the Gazette that he is advocating for the roof work to be postponed until Curtis Hall reopens.
Defending the city’s investing over $1 million in a school that is about to close, Jack Hanlon, deputy director of capital planning told the Gazette the building is “an asset the city owns. If we don’t do the repair, water is going to start penetrating the building.”
BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder told the Gazette there are no long-term plans yet for the use of the building. In the near-term will likely be used as “swing space”—extra space for other schools that are being renovated, he said.
Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, has speculated that the 20 Child St. building will be sold to a charter school.
O’Malley said he wants a clear answer from the school department about what its plans are. “I have been very actively expressing great concern with this school department [about] a concrete plan, or a readily available plan for the future of the Agassiz,” he said.
Prior a school board vote last year to close the Agassiz, the school had long been plagued by a reputation as being housed in a “sick” building.
The decision to replace the roof followed a late 2009 report by the state Department of Public Health that found that the roof was not draining properly and water was infiltrating the building.
Some faculty and staff said water infiltration into the building was causing mold that was, in turn, causing health problems for students, faculty and staff, but that was never conclusively proven.
As the Gazette reported at the time, the roof replacement project was not funded in the 2011 capital budget.
City Councilor John Connolly, chair of the city council education committee, reacted with surprise when the Gazette told him about the large investment in the soon-to-be-closed school. “I wish I had asked them about that” at a recent public hearing on BPS’s proposed capital budget, he said.