New schools could move into Agassiz

November 4, 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.

Under the proposal, the Mission Hill 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.

The new two-way bilingual “innovation school”—the Margarita Muñiz 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.

The new Margarita Muñiz 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 Rafael 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.

Mission Hill K-8 Principal Ayla Gavins told the Gazette that she, like other principals impacted by the changes, had been asked to rate five options for school moves. Her first choice was to stay in Mission Hill, but her second choice was the Agassiz. She said she is hopeful Mission Hill K-8 can regain its status as a citywide school, which it lost last year as part of a BPS effort to cut down on transportation costs. If that is not possible, she said, she would like the school to serve students both from the West Zone which includes JP, and the North Zone, which includes Mission Hill.

Some Mission Hill K-8 School parents the Gazette spoke to expressed concerns about the conditions at the Agassiz, which some describe as a “sick school.” But Gavins said she is confident that the problems with the building have been dealt with.

All of the buildings the new schools are moving into would require renovations, Johnson said. Those efforts will be guided by recommendations from the various school administrations. Gavins said conversations about changes to the Agassiz are still ongoing.

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 Hill K-8’s name, despite the fact that it is moving out of the neighborhood it is named for.

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