Despite fierce opposition from parents and City Councilor Mike Ross, the Boston School Committee on Nov. 15 approved a Boston Public Schools plan that will have two schools moving into the Agassiz School building at 20 Child St. next year.
The plan moves the Mission Hill K-8 School and the new Margarita Muñiz Academy—a two-way bilingual high school named for the founder of JP’s Hernandez School—into the Agassiz building. The Agassiz closed in June after another controversial school committee vote. There are no plans to change Mission Hill K-8’s name despite its move to JP.
Critics of the move say it undermines Mission Hill by taking away elementary school seats and that the Agassiz is an unhealthy building.
Since he was elected last year, local City Councilor Matt O’Malley has been pushing BPS to be transparent about its plans for the Agassiz site. He was not immediately available for comment following the school committee vote. He previously told the Gazette that he supports the BPS plan, known as the 2012 Facilities Plan, but thought community vetting process for it was too short. The plan, which also expands, moves or creates nine other schools, was announced in late October.
It will allow Mission Hill K-8 to add 30 new pre-kindergarten seats, for a total of 193 seats. The Muñiz Academy is intended as a 300-seat feeder school for the handful of two-way bilingual K-8 programs BPS currently runs, including the Rafael Hernandez School in Egleston Square, where Muñiz, the new school’s namesake, is still principal.
The Facilities Plan encountered stiff opposition from Mission Hill K-8 parents and advocates from that neighborhood, including Ross, who represents Mission Hill and part of Hyde Square. He threatened to withhold his vote on the upcoming BPS budget if the plan went through.
Ross told the Gazette he is opposed to the move because his City Council district, which also includes Fenway, the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, already has few elementary school seats. He and other community members expressed concerns that the removal of the school would take away an incentive for young families to move to the Hill, at a time when the neighborhood is being overrun by college students.
Mission Hill K-8 parent Bob Goodman said parental opposition is based on concerns about how the Agassiz building will be divided up between the K-8 school and the Margarita Muñiz Academy, a new two-way bilingual high school.
Parents also have lingering concerns about the Agassiz’s reputation as a leaky “sick building,” where some claimed mold issues were causing respiratory problems for teachers and students. And they are concerned that the Agassiz building does not get enough sunlight.
In response to the “sick building” concerns, the city moved forward with a roof replacement project, which is now under way. The city also replaced all of the windows at the school prior to its closure last year.
Muñiz was not available for comment by press time, but Ken Larson, director of operations at the Hernandez, told the Gazette that naming the new high school after her is “fabulous.”
Muñiz “has worked for BPS for a long time, and she is known throughout the state the country and the world as an innovator in two-way bilingual education,” he said. The honor “was too long in coming.”