New schools could move into Agassiz

October 25, 2011
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A proposal announced by Boston Public Schools (BPS) superintendent Carol Johnson this week would have a K-8 school and a new two-way bilingual high school moving into the former Agassiz School building at 20 Child St. next year.

A community meeting to discuss some of the changes is scheduled for Oct. 26.

Under the proposal, the Mission K-8 school—now located on Alleghany Street in Mission Hill, where it shares space with New Mission High School—would expand into the Agassiz space, picking up 30 new pre-Kindergarten seats, for an overall expansion to 193 seats.

A new two-way bilingual “innovation school”—the Margarita Muniz Academy—would also open at the Agassiz next year, with 300 seats. Innovation schools are charter schools that are overseen by BPS, but have more autonomy than traditional BPS schools.

Pre-kindergarten seats are particularly coveted by young parents. BPS is not required to provide pre-K education for Boston students, but a child enrolled in pre-K is ensured an elementary school seat at the school they are attending.

“Families in JP have a good option there,” Johnson said. Students who live within a one-mile radius of a school are be given “walk-zone” preference in the school placement lottery.

The new Margarita Muniz Academy would respond to a long-expressed need for a feeder high school for a handful of two-way bilingual elementary and middle school programs BPS currently runs, Johnson said.

It would be named after the long-time principal of the two-way bilingual K-8 Raphael Hernandez School in Egleston Square—the first two-way bilingual school in the city.

The new programs at the Agassiz are two of 10 relocations and expansions Johnson proposed under a “2012 Facilities Plan” that 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 Oct. 25.

The Agassiz, an underperforming elementary school, was closed starting last fall, despite having made significant academic improvements in recent years. The building was plagued by structural problems, including a leaky roof and shoddy windows. Some at the school said those issues contributed to mold-related health problems for students and teachers at the school.

As the Gazette previously reported, the city moved forward with a roof replacement project this year despite the fact that the school had already been closed. The city also replaced all of the windows at the school prior to its closure.

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

All of the buildings the new schools are moving into would require renovations, she said. Those efforts will be guided by recommendations from the various school administrations.

BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder also noted that the portion of the Agassiz building the high school acquires will need “modifications” because it will be “for bigger kids.”

During the conference call, Johnson said there are no current plans to change Mission K-8’s name, despite the fact that it is moving out of the neighborhood it was named for.

Following the conference call, Wilder told the Gazette that BPS currently plans for the proposed changes to be permanent, but that the current BPS administration “does not want to tie the hands of a future superintendent.”

BPS plans to host a walk-through of the Agassiz building at 20 Child St. and a community meeting to discuss the Mission K-8’s proposed move Oct. 26. The walk-through is scheduled for 6:00-7:30pm and the meeting for 7:30-8:30pm.

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