Parents create designs for school relocation

April 13, 2012
By

(Courtesy Illustration) The parents’ design, showing a Mission K-8 School entrance to the Agassiz building on Carolina Avenue.

Three parents at the Mission Hill K-8 School—two of them architects—have drawn up the school’s own designs for its new home in Jamaica Plain, where it will controversially move as soon as September.

The free designs, complete with floor plans, were submitted to Boston Public Schools in January. They aim to improve conditions at the shuttered, bunker-like Agassiz School building on Child Street, a mold-plagued concrete tower that is a far cry from the pilot school’s well-appointed current home in Mission Hill.

Parent and architect Nancy Sadecki told the Gazette that the parents involved were among those “shaking our fists in the air against the move for a number of reasons.”

“We had to shift our attitude big-time” when they decided to help plan the new school facility, she said. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

“Mission Hill is a really unique school and I think we just want to make sure the vision of the staff and school…could be articulated properly in the new space,” said Chris McGroddy, another parent and architect on the team.

“We’re following the [parents’] schematic very closely,” said Khadijah Brown, BPS’s director of facilities management and an architect overseeing several of the relocated school designs. “The layout, we are following to the letter.”

The work could be phased in over three years due to funding constraints. Phase one will simply be bringing the building up to code, Sadecki and Brown said.

“We are a little nervous as time is ticking away here,” said McGroddy, noting the tight timeframe for a move slated for September. Brown said the move will happen on that schedule.

The Mission K-8 move, announced last fall, was hotly opposed by many parents and community leaders as a loss to the neighborhood and for sending a successful school to a dubious building.

Mission K-8 will share space in the Agassiz building on with a new school called the Margarita Muñiz Academy. The Muñiz Academy part is being designed by BPS with input from that new school’s principal, Brown said.

The Agassiz will offer some features the Mission Hill K-8 currently lacks, including a large gym, auditorium and playground. But the Agassiz, which closed last year, is a notorious building that was once the target of calls for demolition by Boston city councilors. It was known as a “sick building” for mold-related air-quality issues. It also was built with outdated design features, including a lack of windows and an open floor plan with few actual classrooms.

“Agassiz is basically concrete blocks and vinyl floors,” said McGroddy. The main design items include adding windows; using more inviting materials such as wood on the interiors; and creating a noticeable, covered entryway for the school, which will be on the building’s second floor.

Brown said the moisture issues have been fixed by a new roof and other recent work. Such items as new windows would have to come later if more funding is available, she said.

One of the parents’ items is a new covered entryway on Carolina Avenue. BPS is attempting to find a volunteer partnership to execute the design, Brown said, noting that such work previously has been done with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

BPS asked Mission K-8 to provide a list of priorities for its new facility. Principal Ayla Gavins invited the parents to join the committee that submitted suggestions to BPS. The parents soon suggested drawing up a formal “master plan” rather than a mere wish list.

The plan “leaves no room for [BPS] to interpret” the school’s wishes and lays out features that can be the target of advocacy and fund-raising, Sadecki said. She noted that parents are concerned that BPS will not have time to give the Agassiz rehab enough individual attention without the outside input.

The parents’ designs also create new classroom spaces, seating areas and possibly a roof garden. And there is a sign announcing the school’s name—which is not slated to change, despite moving to JP.

Bob Goodman, another Mission K-8 parent who was not involved in the designs, said in an email to the Gazette that he is pleased with them.

“Even though I, like many parents, opposed the move, I personally am pleased with these plans…and think that if adopted, they would help restore the Agassiz building to serving as a great educational asset for the community,” he wrote.

 

  • Anonymous

    Yes, unfortunately it is still away from their community.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SaveMHS SaveMission HillSchool

    Thanks very much for this excellent report. The importance of general JP community members engaging in our story
    is profound. Bear in mind that ours is a public school that is working,
    where the pilot model established by education leader Deb Meier, based
    on small class-size, experiential learning, portfolio-building, and the
    principled facilitation of community, has kept MHS children happy and
    stimulated, connected with and supportive of each other across grades
    and varying needs–and achieving. Pilot schools are meant to test out
    structures that can benefit the city as a whole when propagated in other
    schools. To weaken our school is to deprive Boston–and now JP in particular–of a priceless
    asset. We hope BPS facilitates the redesign team’s efforts in full, to maintain our school’s strength and our children’s wellbeing. Students need windows.